Staff Columnist

Steve King spins a political thriller on House floor, but it's all fiction

A wild conspiracy theory from Iowa's senior congressman

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on the U.S. House floor on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. King accused Randy Feenstra, who defeat
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on the U.S. House floor on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. King accused Randy Feenstra, who defeated King in the June primary, conspired with political elites to oust him.

U.S. Rep. Steve King is the victim of an unprecedented national conspiracy to remove him from power, according to Steve King.

The congressman representing northwest Iowa for the past 18 years was defeated in a Republican primary this year, ending his 24-year career in elected office. On the House floor this past week, King blamed his defeat on shadowy forces among the political elite.

For 51 minutes captured by C-SPAN, King connected the dots in the calculated plot against him. It involves a secretive late-night phone call to small-town Iowa, a careful examination of hyphens versus commas, and extensive Google searches for the term “white nationalist.”

A strategy and millions of dollars and a network of media that was coordinated across this country is all part of this. It’s all part of my book.

- U.S. Rep. Steve King

Republican from Iowa

King’s 21st century detective tale might be good fodder for the new book he’s promoting, but it’s not true. Iowa voters dumped King because he’s a do-nothing ideologue, not because of a covert takedown from the politically powerful.

The pivotal plot point for King is the January 2019 New York Times article where King was quoted as saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King maintains he was the victim of mispunctuation — there should be a hyphen between the second and third terms on the list, King says. He meant to make a distinction between “Western civilization” and those two “odious ideologies.”

The New York Times reporter didn’t care about that nuance because it was a setup all along. King said he overlooked an email from his staff before the phone call telling him, “Don’t do the interview, it’s a trap.”

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The timing was suspicious to King. One day before the “Western civilization” story was published in the Times, State Sen. Randy Feenstra announced a primary challenge against King, even though King suggested Feenstra had told him he wouldn’t run. King said the campaign announcement seemed quickly thrown together, hinting at a conspiracy.

“That seems to me like he hadn’t been planning that very long. I think he got a phone call the night before that morning that said you’re going to have to announce now,” King said.

Days later, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a resolution to disapprove of King’s “Western civilization” quote. Republican leaders also stripped King of his committee assignments, effectively ostracizing him from policymaking: “It’s still pretty stunning to think how you can mobilize the United States Congress over whether or not there’s a hyphen or a period where it ought to be.”

Besides the president, King probably has been called a white nationalist more than any other U.S. politician. But according to King’s research and the line graphs he brought to the House floor, white nationalism was “not in our American vernacular” until 2016, when leftists called a meeting, with George Soros in attendance, to devise new attacks against conservative leaders. In King’s telling, it was a deliberate attempt to poison the language and the political discourse.

“This term, white nationalist, was weaponized and it was used against conservatives. They knew they’d worn out the term racism so they had to come up with some new terms,” King said.

King’s account of being unfairly accused of racism will not be believable to anyone paying attention to Iowa politics. King has made a long career out of opposing immigration. With hits such as “calves the size of cantaloupes” and “somebody else’s babies,” nobody has to wonder where King stands on multiculturalism and diversity.

Look past Steve King’s rhetoric, see a do-nothing politician

Steve King wants to be Teddy Roosevelt for the internet era

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Steve King conservatism and the future of the GOP

King’s flirtation with — and sometimes outright embrace of — racist groups and ideas predates last year’s New York Times story by more than a decade. Combine that with his dismal record as a federal legislator — with just one bill passed into law over nine terms in the House — and it’s easy to see why 4th District voters set him packing in the June primary.

In his closing comments, King was sure to mention his upcoming book, “Walking Through The Fire.” It sounds like a real thriller, even if it’s mostly fictional.

“The forces behind this, the forces of the swamp, that have mobilized themselves like never before, have pulled off something that has never been accomplished before. A strategy and millions of dollars and a network of media that was coordinated across this country is all part of this. It’s all part of my book. I can’t begin to express it all here in the time that I have,” King said.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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