Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, landed in some hot water this week after he gave an interview to a local TV station in his Sioux City district office and viewers noticed that he kept a Confederate flag on his desk.
In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jeff Angelo on Wednesday, King explained that the flag had been on his desk, along with an American flag and a Gadsden flag, for “a long, long time” and “no one has ever commented about it” until now.
He told Angelo that his critics don’t understand the “real history of the Civil War” and that only a “small part of it was about slavery.” He claimed that nobody minded the Confederate flag until the past year or so when people starting using the flag as a “pretext in order to divide us.”
“This is a free country and there’s freedom of speech,” he said, “and, by the way, I’d encourage people to go back and read the real history of the Civil War and find out what it was about. A small part of it was about slavery, but there was a big part of it that was about states’ rights, it was about people that defended their homeland and fought next to their neighbors and their family. And on both sides of that, roughly 600,000 Americans lost their lives in the Civil War and we put an end to slavery, a stain upon our country. And we’ve lived with respecting the South and their way of life for 150 years and now, after 150 years, there has to be an issue about a Confederate flag?”
King told Angelo that he had ancestors who had fought and died in the Union Army.
“Our family cares a lot about unity but also about the truth and accuracy in history,” he said, “and so that Confederate flag has been here for a long, long time, it just does a reflection of our history, it’s not meant to be anything else. And, by the way, up until about a year ago, it never occurred to me that anyone would think that it has something to do with — that it was an advocacy for anything other than, let’s just say, a piece of our history that we should remember and remember the right lessons from.”
“I’m watching our civilization digress,” he added, “because people are pitting — they are looking for pretext in order to divide us, and this is the pretext that they have chosen upon. And so I’d say to them the same thing the Texans say about their flag with the cannon on it: ‘You see this flag? Come and take it.’”