Steve King Slams GOP Leaders, Says Conservatives Privately Express Support for Him

U.S. Congressman Steve King of Iowa speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Right-wing activist Ed Martin called it “an outrage” that congressional Republicans failed to stand up for Rep. Steve King, who has been under fire since a New York Times story quoted him asking when terms like white nationalist, white supremacist, and Western civilization became offensive. The longtime Iowa congressman appeared on Martin’s radio show on Tuesday evening after being stripped of his committee assignments, and after the House passed a resolution decrying white nationalism and white supremacy.

While many people have asked what took Republicans so long to move against King given his long track record of racist and nativist rhetoric, Martin and King complained about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted to strip King of his committee assignments, and Liz Cheney, who publicly called for King to resign from Congress. The Des Moines Register has also called on King to step down.

“The only thing worse than being the focus of the New York Times and the mainstream media’s attack is to have the Republican Party, that’s supposed to be the conservative party, join in,” complained Martin.

King described his life over the past few days as a bad dream: “When I wake up in the morning, the bad dream starts, when I go to sleep at night it’s like I woke up from a bad dream because the bad dream ends. That’s how perverse it is; it’s inside out and upside down.”

King said he has learned that there is no recording of the interview. He said he has not accused the reporter of misquoting him, because he is not certain, though he said, as he has elsewhere, that his comments were meant to question only when the term “Western civilization” had become offensive, not the terms white nationalism and white supremacy. “I talk about Western civilization constantly,” he said.

“I’m at peace in my soul with this,” said King. “And I’m confident that what I have done has been true and right and just and honest.”

Martin asked King how it was possible that McCarthy would not believe him. “Well, he heard me say it,” said King, “but he decided he’s gonna believe the New York Times over Steve King, and that’s a fact.”

King also slammed Cheney. “If there’s support out there for Liz Cheney after this … You can’t put her in the category of ever being a conservative again. She’s called for my resignation. She’s been here two years? What would give her the moral authority or the intellectual judgment to do something like that?”

Asked by Martin whether he has heard from President Trump, King said he hasn’t had a conversation with Trump and wouldn’t want to have one “in this time frame,” because “then if they ask him, he’s gotta answer.” He noted that Trump has responded to questions by saying “I’m not focused on that right now; I’m focused on building a wall.” Said King, “that’s a good place for it to be.”

“Where’s the Freedom Caucus?” Martin asked, saying he had defended the right-wing congressional group’s founding chair Jim Jordan from a “hit job”—presumably a reference to allegations that emerged last year that as a wrestling coach Jordan had ignored the alleged sexual abuse of athletes by the team’s doctor.

King said a “respectable number” of conservatives had come up to him one-on-one to express their affection and respect, but that he hasn’t yet had a conversation with the Freedom Caucus. He also said he’s getting “a lot of support from the district.” King said he also expects the “heat” to die down now that the House had passed its resolution. Of calls for him to resign, he said, “that’s not gonna happen.”

Martin runs Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, a group that emerged from a power struggle within Eagle Forum and the Schlafly family to control the legacy of the late right-wing activist. The group honored King with its Phyllis Schlafly Award for Excellence in Leadership last year; Martin said Schlafly had always called King her “favorite congressman.”  Last year, Martin’s Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles Political Action Committee spent tens of thousands of dollars opposing Cheney and supporting her Republican primary opponent.