It took Steve King proudly proclaiming himself to be a white nationalist and a white supremacist before House GOP leadership finally took some action.
It finally happened. After being an unrelenting and obvious white supremacist for ages, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) finally suffered the most minor of consequences — being stripped of his House committee assignments.
And all it took for the Republican Party to finally do something, anything, about King was for him to say something completely racist — which for some reason got more public backlash than all the other completely racist things he's said in the past.
In an interview with the New York Times, King mused philosophically about his racism. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
For some reason, after a decade and a half of Steve King being viscerally and publicly racist, this statement is what finally got him in hot water with GOP leadership.
After House Democrats made it clear they would punish King even if the GOP took no action, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finally did something by stripping King of his committee assignments. McCarthy said he wouldn't rule out censuring or reprimanding King, but also went on to say that he won't remove King from the House GOP conference, which means he still goes to party meetings and still votes.
McCarthy couldn't even explain why these particular remarks constituted a tipping point in light of King's rampant public racism for years. Instead, he pretended not to have known about King's previous remarks: “Maybe I did not see those, but I disagree with these.”
The GOP could have taken official action against King when he tweeted about America being overrun with someone else's babies, or when he praised the agenda of European Nazis, or when he retweeted a self-described Nazi sympathizer. They didn't.
Instead, King's fellow Iowa Republicans fell over themselves to praise and court him.
Sen. Chuck Grassley endorsed King in the 2018 midterms. “Iowa needs Steve King in Congress," he said. "I also need Steve King in Congress.” Senator Joni Ernst did a campaign rally with King right before the 2018 election. Iowa's Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, declined to remove him as a campaign co-chair, saying, "I can't be held responsible for everyone's comments."
To be fair, it is probably difficult for the GOP to entirely repudiate King when Trump, as the head of their party, is such an unvarnished racist himself. And of course, Trump hasn't come forward to condemn King's latest comments, saying only, "I haven't been following it."
Meanwhile, King issued a statement claiming that the New York Times — and everyone else — misunderstood what he was saying, and insisted "the Left" is to blame for assigning "slanderous labels" such as "white supremacist" to conservatives. This defense rings hollow given King's record of embracing white supremacy, and the blame-shifting attempt is almost comically bad.
The GOP is getting a lot of headlines for supposedly rebuking King. But in reality, their action is pathetically miniminal, and comes much too late.
In other words, it's all business as usual in the Republican party.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.