Why Steve King's spin on his 'white supremacist' comments just doesn't work

In the wake of his House Republican colleagues stripping Iowa GOP Congressman Steve King's committee assignm...

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 9:48 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 9:48 PM

In the wake of his House Republican colleagues stripping Iowa GOP Congressman Steve King's committee assignments after he openly wondered how -- and why -- terms like "white supremacist" became a bad thing, King tried to fight back with the age-old "but context!" argument.

"Leader McCarthy's decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth," said King in a statement released Monday night. "The truth is as follows: One of my quotes in a New York Times story has been completely mischaracterized."

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How, you ask? Well, it's complicated, but the basic argument goes like this: King and Trip Gabriel, The New York Times reporter who wrote the piece on King that has caused all the controversy, talked for a long time (56 minutes, according to King) and that what King was really wondering about was when "Western civilization" became a bad word, not when "white supremacist" or "white nationalist" did.

Here's the full quote from King to Gabriel: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"

It seems pretty clear what he's saying there -- and it doesn't comport with his explanation that, after a list of allegedly offensive terms, he was only referencing the last one ("Western civilization") when he wondered when it became offensive.

In a vacuum, you might be willing to give King the benefit of the doubt. He misspoke. He spoke inarticulately. Whatever.

The problem of course is that King doesn't live in a vacuum -- and neither do the rest of us. And the same context that King wants us to consider when it comes to his quote to The New York Times dooms his attempt to cast this whole thing as one big misunderstanding.

Consider this far-from-complete list of King's controversial comments and actions over the past few years:

Notice a common theme emerging? King has repeatedly given voice to racist views -- and then either said he didn't mean to say what he said, he didn't know what he was doing was wrong or, yes, he was misquoted.

On the House floor Tuesday, King maintained that the quote was taken out of context. "There is no tape for this interview. ... The New York Times has a different version of this. They make a habit of attacking the President."

Here's the thing: If you have a proven track record of saying racist things, you are a racist. That's it.

Now, I understand why King wants to make this all about how the GOP leadership in the House is being mean to him and how some reporter for The New York Times treated him badly. (FYI: Trip Gabriel didn't.) Because the alternative is to accept, well, that he holds racist views. And that's a tough pill to swallow.

The other problem created by King's attempted explanation is that it makes very clear that he has NO plans to leave the House anytime soon. By trying to fight back -- against both the media and the Republican leadership -- King is trying to rally the Trump base behind him one last time. He's trying to cast this whole thing as a liberal -- wait for it -- witch hunt, and his refusal to back down as a courageous (and principled) stand against the ever-encroaching forces of political correctness.

Which means that statements like this one from Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney -- "I agree with Leader McConnell. I think (King) should find another line of work" -- don't really mean much. King won -- albeit narrowly -- in 2018, despite having a well-funded opponent who centered the campaign on the series of very controversial racist statements King has made over the years.

The same argument that makes clear King carries racist views (he's been spouting them for years!) also makes the case for why it will be tough for Republicans to remove him from office if he doesn't want to go (he's been spouting racist views for years!) Voters knew at least most of what they were getting when they elected King last November. His latest comment to The New York Times is simply a(nother) way of saying what he believes -- and has been saying -- for years. It's not anything new.

All of which means two things: 1) Steve King isn't some sort of misunderstood racial healer (or even someone with anything close to mainstream views on race) and 2) Steve King is likely to be a problem for House Republicans for months to come.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
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Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
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Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
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