Government

Steve King has a friendly audience at town hall; goes on defense about NYT comments

(Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal) Rep. Steve King, of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, speaks at a town hall meeting Saturday at the community building in Primghar. It was the Republican congressman’s first town hall  meeting since making controversial comments to the New York Times that resulted in him being stripped of his House committee assignments.
(Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal) Rep. Steve King, of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, speaks at a town hall meeting Saturday at the community building in Primghar. It was the Republican congressman’s first town hall meeting since making controversial comments to the New York Times that resulted in him being stripped of his House committee assignments.

PRIMGHAR — In his first public meeting with constituents since he was chastised by the House over his comments on white supremacy, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told constituents that President Donald Trump is not going to give up on his border wall.

King said he continues to support the border wall. An impasse in negotiations led to the 35-day government shutdown that ended Friday.

“The president essentially is saying to Congress, ‘You’ve got one more shot at this,’ maybe even one more shot after that I would guess, given that he didn’t stick with this one the way I thought he had said he would,” King said.

“I think in the end, the president’s not going to give up. He’s going to build a wall ... He’s closer to declaring a state of emergency. I’ve said to him, ‘You have the legal authority to do that, and I will support your efforts to do that.’ I’m out of patience with this argument.”

A few dozen people, mostly King supporters, showed up for a one-hour town hall at the Primghar Community Building, along with a dozen or more members of media organizations.

King, who was re-elected in November with margin of victory of 3 percentage points, has not in recent years held town halls to hear from constituents. But he changed course earlier this month, saying he would hold one in each of the 39 counties in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in 2019.

Most of the attendees were displeased with the national discourse surrounding King. Since his comments on white supremacy were published Jan. 10 in the New York Times, he was stripped of his U.S. House committee assignments for the next two years.

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He was quoted as saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

“I’ve known Steve for 30 years. (The New York Times) took something way out of context. That is not Steve King,” said Kelly O’Brien of Sanborn, leader of the O’Brien County Republican Party.

“I’ve known too many times he’s helped people from other ethnic backgrounds. He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

The questions were screened and selected before the event began.

Not all questions were answered.

Doug Alexander of Arnolds Park said he wanted to ask King about comments the congressman made about immigrants, in particular King’s 2017 tweet that America “can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Alexander’s sons are half Chinese.

“What is it that makes you think that my three sons, being mixed culture, are part of the demise of Western Civilization?” Alexander said.

Alexander said he plans to attend as many of King’s town halls as possible to try and ask his question.

King, for his part, briefly addressed the backlash to his New York Times comments and defended his thoughts on Western Civilization.

“They are denigrating Western Civilization today, and if they can break down Western Civilization and turn it into the scourge of history, then our freedom is gone,” he said.

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Those who were called on to ask questions were largely supportive of King and his brand of conservatism. Few of the questions had anything to do with the New York Times article, though some did want to know how King’s loss of committee assignments would affect his ability to represent the district.

While King lamented the loss of his assignments to the Small Business, Agriculture and Judiciary committees, he said that with a Democratic majority in the House, any bill he might have introduced would have died anyway.

King said he is most concerned about the Judiciary Committee, where he has sat for 16 years. He suspects the committee will use its power to investigate the Trump administration or attempt impeachment, and he won’t have the power to fight it.

“That’s where they will miss me, and I regret that,” he said.

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