Last night, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, defended his party’s relative homogeneity by arguing that white people have “contributed more to civilization” than “any other subgroup of people.”
The comment was particularly fitting coming during the convention at which the Republican Party is set to nominate Donald Trump, who has fueled his presidential campaign with appeals to racial animus. And it fit in with a long pattern from King, who is a leader in shaping the GOP’s immigration policy and who once said that a “good amount” of Trump’s policy plans are “a copy-and-paste from things that I’ve done.”
King made plenty of headlines back in 2013 when he argued against the DREAM Act by claiming that most of the young undocumented immigrants whom the bill would help “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
In a very Trumpian move, King later tried to claim that his remark was accurate and even complimentary.
Like Trump, King makes racial dog-whistles a centerpiece of his anti-immigrant politics. He has repeatedly warned of the changing “demographics” produced by immigration, saying last year, “I like the America we had.”
This style of rhetoric also comes out when King is discussing non-immigration issues. During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014,King said that racial profiling wasn’t a concern there because the small segment of people who had been rioting and looting were all of the same “continental origin.” King recently raised eyebrows when he filed a bill to defund the plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, insisting that it would be “racist” to add Tubman to the currency. Just last week, King defended keeping a Confederate flag on his office desk, saying that his critics don’t understand the “real history of the Civil War” and the fact that only a “small part of it was about slavery.” He once falsely claimed that President Obama had “apologized to Africa for slavery” when in fact “there’s nothing for us to apologize for,” and promoted the racist birther conspiracy theory.
While King endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, Trump has shown himself to be a fan of King. At one memorable press conference in Iowa in 2014, Trump, who had traveled to the state to campaign for King, stood behind the congressman smirking and nodding as King warned that the U.S. was becoming a “third-world country” thanks to immigration.