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Under fire in Storm Lake, Steve King denies quote on rape, incest

Republican congressman engages with attendees at fiery town hall

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks at a sparsely attended town hall Saturday in Grundy Center. His Saturday town hall in Storm Lake drew a larger, more confrontational crowd. (Reuters)
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks at a sparsely attended town hall Saturday in Grundy Center. His Saturday town hall in Storm Lake drew a larger, more confrontational crowd. (Reuters)

By Mason Dockter, Sioux City Journal

STORM LAKE — U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, denounced the Des Moines Register and the Associated Press during a fiery town hall appearance Saturday afternoon..

King, who represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, faced nationwide blowback this past week after he reportedly told a conservative group in a Des Moines suburb that his opposition to abortion includes cases of rape and incest, asking, “Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”

His comments, criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, prompted Ashley WolfTornabane of Storm Lake to take him to task at the town hall.

“Do you still stand by that?” WolfTornabane asked.

Turning to a defense he’s deployed throughout this year after a New York Times report quoted him asking when terms such as “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became offensive, King told the crowd he was misquoted.

“The Des Moines Register misquoted me. The AP picked it up. They spread it to all kinds of outlets all around this country. It’s no longer the circumstance in America that, when a newspaper misquotes you, you can call the editor up and they print a correction the next day,” King said.

“Social media spreads it like a virus, like a plague. And so, the Des Moines Register retracted their statement and corrected it. The AP retracted their statement and corrected it.”

The Register published a correction, adding a full quote from him where it previously had used an abridged quote. But the paper did not retract the article or any quotes from him; the corrected information did not appear to significantly alter the substance of what was said.

A video widely available online shows King making the controversial remarks.

Media disputes aside, King reaffirmed his opposition to all abortions.

“I’m defending innocent, unborn human life,” he said.

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WolfTornabane, who said she opposes abortion but never would vote for King, engaged in a heated back-and-forth with the congressman on his rhetoric. She said after the town hall that she was unimpressed with King’s response.

“He didn’t really answer the question,” she said.

She wasn’t the only attendee who brought a confrontational question to the town hall. Jose Ibarra, a Storm Lake City Council member who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1999, asked King about his notoriously inflammatory rhetoric on illegal immigration.

King disputed some of the quotes Ibarra mentioned, while offering his support for an anti-abortion bill he said would save the offspring of minorities.

“You wouldn’t have any way of knowing this, but I happen to be the author and chief sponsor of a piece of legislation that’s been brought farther in the United States Congress than any other, that saves the lives of more black babies, more brown babies, more Asian babies and also more white babies, than any other bill,” King said.

Another attendee, Maggie Martinez, delivered a rebuke.

“You have no significance in Congress. It is now time for us to elect J.D. Scholten,” she said, referring to the Democrat who was narrowly defeated by King in 2018. Scholten plans to run again in 2020.

Martinez’s comment was followed by a round of applause.

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