In his first public appearance in front of constituents since the publication of his remarks defending white supremacy, Rep. Steve King defended himself from accusations that he is the House of Representative’s most high-profile racist, before telling a female constituent that Americans aren’t having enough babies.
Speaking in Primghar, Iowa, the nine-term Republican told constituents in a town hall meeting that it was “stunning and astonishing to me” that his remarks in a New York Times profile—in which King asked: “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”—could “outweigh” nearly two decades in Congress. King declared that he is not a racist, and insisted that the quotation was the result of punctuational prejudice by agenda-driven reporters.
“I’ve made more than one mistake, we all have,” King said. “I should have never done an interview with The New York Times.”
The remarks, published weeks after King won his narrowest bid for reelection of his career, prompted widespread condemnation from colleagues of both parties. Republican leadership, who have long appeared to tolerate King’s open flirtation with white nationalism, stripped him of his committee assignments, and backed a resolution that repudiated white supremacy by quoting him directly.
King backed the measure, but ignored calls from some fellow Republicans, including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, to resign.
Speaking in front of roughly 40 people on Saturday morning, King came off as defensive of his record as one of the most virulently anti-immigration members of the House, at one point addressing a female constituent’s question as to how young people might be convinced to move to Iowa by citing declining birthrates among native born Americans, as well as abortion.
“I’m a strong supporter of the pro-life position," King said. “When I think of the missing babies... there are 60 million babies that are missing in this society.”
Both talking points are frequently cited by both King and white nationalists as evidence that immigrant children will replace native-born Americans, supposedly leading to a decline in American cultural traditions.
During the town hall, King lashed out at fellow Republicans who criticized him, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Mitt Romney, dubbing them “neo-cons” who are “trying to control you.”
King also discussed his efforts to bring several injured children from Tanzania to the U.S. for treatment after a constituent voiced his support for King, and said they believed that the embattled legislator wasn't racist.
The Congressman added that he had a friend in Tanzania who could help work out the logistics.
“God puts these triangles in place...years in advance,” King remarked.
Although King was preparing for potential conflict in Primghar, tweeting before the meeting began for his followers to follow “a potentially volatile town hall” on his Facebook Live account, the audience in the rural town one hour from Sioux City were largely unbothered by King’s past remarks. One questioner prefaced a question by thanking King for what he does for "the white, European man.”