Top Republicans in Washington — including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican — have called for Rep. Steve King to resign from office over his comments about white supremacy and white nationalism to The New York Times last week.
But the Iowa Republican’s political survival does not depend on the GOP’s Washington elite — the people of Iowa’s 4th District, whom he has represented for 16 years, will ultimately decide if King stays or not.
Residents of Sioux City, Fort Dodge, the college town of Ames, and other cities in the northwestern portion of the state have expressed mixed feelings about the impact of King’s recent comments and their fallout in Washington.
“They’re overreacting, magnifying it 100 times what it should be,” Bill Crook, an Ogden, Iowa, resident, told KCCI in Des Moines, referring to Republican leaders who have stripped King of his committee assignments and voted to condemn the comments he made to The New York Times’ editorial board.
Watch: Steve King: ‘I want to ask my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution’
For the first time since 1899, Iowa will not have a representative from the House on the Agriculture Committee.
“It will most certainly have an impact on Iowa and Iowa’s interests. The farm community, the smaller towns,” 4th-District resident Andrea McWilliams told 6 News in Iowa.
“I’m not a fan of his, no, but I still think it’s a drastic move. A drastic thing to do to him,” she said.
In an interview with The New York Times’ editorial board last week, King at one point asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
King’s comments did not reflect a particular shift in his behavior.
The congressman has made headlines over the past couple years for retweeting and meeting with far-right groups with ties to Nazis. He consistently decries what he sees as the demise of white Americans as the U.S. becomes more diverse.
“Western civilization is on the decline,” King said at a meeting last year with a handful of reporters and activists, including a member of a far-right group in Austria that was founded by a former Nazi SS officer.
The congressman’s top donors have remained silent since the comments.
Of the roughly 20 individual Iowans who contributed the maximum amount to King’s campaign last election cycle, none commented or could be reached for comment by WHO-TV in Iowa earlier this week.
Others have said they hope he is somehow removed from office.
But others said cutting King’s tenure short would unfairly reverse the voters’ decision in November to send him back to Washington for a ninth term.
“Nobody can just dismiss what the people voted for,” said Robin Good, a Republican voter from Ogden, who told KCCI that she believes King does a good job in Washington, but that his comments crossed a line.
“He has a job to do. He needs to respect the parameters of his job, and he needs to be reprimanded — and that’s the end of it,” Good said. “We need to concentrate on what’s important: take care of business, go home, eat supper, enjoy your family.”
Lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill — including King himself — voted for a resolution on Tuesday condemning white nationalism and white supremacy. The resolution was intended as a rebuke to King’s comments.
“There’s no way to go back and listen, but I can tell you this: That ideology never shows up in my head. I don’t know how it could possibly come out of my mouth,” said King in a speech on the House floor, suggesting his words were taken out of context by the Times.
King did not apologize for his comments.
The congressman said he has “carefully studied every word” in the resolution of disapproval and agrees with the substance. “I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution,” he said.
Setting the tone for the rest of his Republican colleagues in Washington, McConnell said in a statement Tuesday that King’s comments on white supremacy and white nationalism “are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position.”
“If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work,” McConnell said in a statement this week.
Cheney and other Republicans in the House echoed McConnell this week, calling for their colleague’s resignation.
State Sen. Randy Feenstra announced earlier this month that he will challenge King for his seat in the 2020 GOP primary, citing the congressman’s “caustic nature.”
“Today, Iowa’s 4th District doesn’t have a voice in Washington, because our current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table,” Feenstra said in a news release last week, before King’s comments in the Times were published.
“We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions, we need to start winning for Iowa’s families,” Feenstra said.