Steve King asks if there would be ‘any population’ left without rape and incest
Rep. Steve King of Iowa questioned Wednesday if there would “be any population of the world left” if it were not for rape and incest. His comment drew swift condemnation from top House Republicans and at least one called for him to resign.
Written by Matt Stevens and Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a Republican whose history of making racist and divisive remarks led him to be stripped of his committee assignments earlier this year, questioned Wednesday if there would “be any population of the world left” if it were not for rape and incest. His comment drew swift condemnation from top House Republicans and at least one called for him to resign.
King, who represents a deeply conservative district in northwest Iowa, made the remarks to the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, as he explained his opposition to exceptions for rape and incest in anti-abortion legislation.
“It’s not the baby’s fault,” King said in video of the comments published by The Des Moines Register, which first reported the story.
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that’s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can’t certify that I’m not a product of that. And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”
A spokesman for King did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But House Republican leaders broke from their August recess to publicly chastise him.
The top two Republicans, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, both said King’s comments underscored why he was removed from his committees, though both stopped short of saying further action was necessary.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had concerns with what Steve King has said,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ Special Report. “I think this just continues to show why that action was taken.”
The No. 3 Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, called King’s comments “appalling and bizarre” and reiterated her suggestion that he resign.
“As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go,” she wrote on Twitter. “The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better.”
King was removed from committees in January after he questioned why white supremacism was offensive. The next step, should Republicans want to further punish him, would likely be to expel him from the conference, which according to party rules would require a 2/3 vote of the members. It is unclear whether Republicans would do that.
However, during a private conference meeting in June, a proposal by one member to reinstate King on his committees drew no support from any other member of the conference, according to one person familiar with the session.
King is a politically problematic figure for the broader conference, which is trying to demonstrate inclusivity and can ill afford to let him become the face of the party at a time when its numbers of female and minority politicians are shrinking. At least two Republican women are not seeking reelection to the House, and the lone black Republican in the conference, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, has also declined to run again.
King’s latest remarks come just over a week after J.D. Scholten, a Democrat who nearly defeated him in 2018, announced that he would run again for King’s congressional seat in 2020. King defeated Scholten by just 10,000 votes last November. King also faces a Republican primary challenger, State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who has far outraised him.
“Yet again, Steve King puts his selfish, hateful ideology above the needs of the people of Iowa’s 4th district,” Scholten said in a statement Wednesday. “Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable.”
“His comments are disrespectful to survivors and don’t reflect Iowan values,” Scholten added.
Numerous Democratic presidential candidates called on King to resign as well.
“Steve King is a racist, a misogynist and a disgrace to the country,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “He should not be a member of the United States Congress.”
“You are a disgrace. Resign,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was one of several candidates who urged donations to Scholten.
During his nine terms in Congress, King has publicly promoted white nationalists and neo-Nazis on Twitter and frequently insulted immigrants. He once famously said that for every child of an undocumented immigrant who becomes a valedictorian, “there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
After King made his comments about white supremacy to a New York Times reporter, a number of powerful party leaders, including Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, suggested he should resign, and the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution disapproving of King’s statements.
King has insisted that his comments were misunderstood.
Two months later, in March, King came under scrutiny again when he said he did not “have an answer” when asked directly whether he believed a white society to be superior to a nonwhite society.