Days after a narrowly securing her seat, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued her first harsh words for Rep. Steve King — who has been denounced by anti-racism activists and Jewish congregations in Iowa for his sympathies to white nationalists — in the form of an ultimatum.
“I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that,” the Republican governor said in a gaggle with reporters on Tuesday.
Those comments are a departure for Reynolds, who rebuffed calls by her Democratic opponent in the Iowa gubernatorial contest to condemn King on the campaign trail. And King remained an honorary co-chairman of her campaign even as his corporate donors and the National Republican Congressional Committee peeled away from him.
“When I don’t agree with what he says, I’m very open about that,” Reynolds told the Quad-City Times a week before voters went to the polls. “None of us agree on everything. I also cannot be held accountable for what every person tweets or says. I’m accountable for myself, and I am leading.”
She dismissed calls for her campaign to boot King as “scare tactics.”
King shared a stage with Reynolds for a campaign rally on the eve of Election Day, soon after a meeting with voters in which he scorned the House Republican campaign arm for supporting a gay candidate, Iowa Starting Line reported.
King and Reynolds both barely staved off Democratic challengers last week. They both won their elections by three points.
King has for years been censured by the Southern Poverty Law Center for comments the watchdog group calls “explicitly white nationalist.”
But the scrutiny has become more severe since October, when a gunman motivated by an ideology of white supremacy shot 11 people at a synagogue in the largest hate crime perpetrated against Jews in U.S. history.
That tragedy coincided with an October Washington Post report that King met with a member of a far-right Austrian political party with historical Nazi ties while on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust remembrance group. There, King echoed the far-right conspiracy theory that immigration and diversity will lead to a collapse of “Western civilization” in an interview with an Austrian media outlet. Advocacy groups dedicated to rooting out hate speech say “Western civilization” used in that context is a euphemism for whites.
More recently, a conservative publication released audio recording of King referring to immigrants as “dirt.”
King has denied he is a white supremacist.
In a statement in reaction to the governor’s comments, King embraced Reynolds but also appeared to undercut her criticism by pointing out that both candidates eked out victories last week.
Watch: Steve King Explodes When Pressed About White Supremacist Comments