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King Flares Up at Question About White Nationalism: ‘I Knew You Were An Ambusher’

At forum, Iowa man asked King about sharing same ideology as Pittsburgh shooter

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is interviewed by NBC News in the rotunda of Russell Building on the first day of the 115th Congress in January 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is interviewed by NBC News in the rotunda of Russell Building on the first day of the 115th Congress in January 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Amid escalating criticism for his incendiary rhetoric, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King flared up at a campaign event Thursday after a member of the public asked a question about his meeting with members of an extreme right-wing party in Europe.

“Do you identify as a white supremacist? Then why did you meet with a white supremacist organization in Austria?” a questioner said at a candidate forum at the state’s chamber of commerce office, the Des Moines Register reported.

“Stop it,” King fumed, his voice breaking. “You’re done.”

King faces criticism from anti-racism activists and Jewish congregations in Iowa for meeting with a far-right Austrian political party with historical Nazi ties while on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust remembrance group. 

Steve King Explodes When Pressed About White Supremacist Comments

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King dismissed the Washington Post story that first reported details about that trip as “ all falsehoods” at the forum. The Post released a subsequent statement standing by its account. 

King has for years been censured by the Southern Poverty Law Center for comments the watchdog group calls “explicitly white nationalist.” 

But the scrutiny has become more severe since Saturday, when a gunman motivated by an ideology of white supremacy shot 11 people at a synagogue in the largest hate crime perpetrated against Jews in U.S. history. 

King dismissed the criticism as “Leftist Media Lies” and described the backlash as “Peak Insanity” in a tweet Thursday.

King will keep a low-profile until Election Day. He has no campaign events scheduled through Tuesday, and his staff has stopped responding to media inquiries, according to local reports. King faces a reelection challenge from J.D. Scholten. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

The questioner at Thursday’s forum was Kaleb Van Fosson of Ames, the Des Moines Register reported.

Fosson tried to ask King to defend a tweet the congressman wrote last year stating in part, “culture and demographics are our destiny. We cannot restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Fosson drew a parallel to comments the suspect in the Pittsburgh tragedy wrote on social media the morning of the shooting. Robert Bowers wrote on that a Jewish charity that aids refugees “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.”

Fosson began by asking King, “you and the shooter both share an ideology that is fundamentally anti-immigration —”

“No, do not associate me with that shooter,” King interrupted. “I knew you were an ambusher as soon as you walked in the room. There is no basis for that. You get no question and no answer.”

“I was about to ask what distinguishes your ideology …” Fosson tried again.

“No, you’re done.” King said. He cited his support for Israel to deflect from accusations of antisemitism before asking security to boot Fosson from the event.

Fosson was an among the protesters outside the venue before the forum began. The demonstration was organized by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, according to the Register. King reportedly entered through a rear door.

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