Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King had a mild meltdown when he was asked if he identifies as a white supremacist on Thursday, the first time he took questions after his history of racism came under renewed scrutiny.
At a public forum in Des Moines, an unidentified man compared similar statements made by King and the Pittsburgh shooter, who was charged with murdering 11 Jewish people Saturday.
The person asked what the differences between the two men’s ideologies were. King made a recent trip to Austria to visit concentration camps — a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial nonprofit — where he met with a far-right political party founded by a former Nazi SS officer and which is associated with neo-Nazi movements.
The Republican told the man not to associate him with the shooter and asked for the man to be escorted out.
“Do not associate me with that shooter. I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room. There’s no basis for that,” King said.
King didn’t directly answer when the man asked if the lawmaker identified as a white supremacist.
“Stop it! You’re done! I want to ask whoever’s guarding the door to ask this man to leave the room,” King said.
As the midterm elections near, King is facing mounting pressure from fellow Republicans and his corporate donors for the many racist statements he’s made during his 15 years in office.
Pat Rynard, the founder and editor of the Iowa Starting Line news publication, said King is behaving differently as scrutiny grows.
“I’ve been covering Iowa politics for four years, and I’ve never seen him lose his cool like that,” Rynard said.
The rest of the event was “more typical questions for a Steve King event,” he added.
“Most of the time he comes off as a boring everyday member of Congress,” Rynard said. “The racially charged stuff gets in the press, but that’s not really what he talks about in the district.”
This year, though, King’s controversies have hit home. Polls have suddenly tightened in his race, and his opponent, a former minor league pitcher, says he is feeling more confident.
King responded on Twitter with “Leftist Media lies have reached Peak Insanity and compared me to the evil Pittsburgh murderer of 11 Jews!” King’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Here’s a transcript of the confrontation:
Question: This Saturday there was a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that tragically left 11 people dead. The terrorist who committed this crime was quoted as saying, “They bring invaders and then kill our people. I can’t sit back and watch our people get slaughtered.” You, Steve King, have been quoted as saying, “We can’t restore our civilization with other people’s babies.” You and the shooter both share an ideology that’s anti-immigration—
King: No, we do not. Do not associate me with that shooter. I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room. There’s no basis for that, and you get no questions and no answers.
Q: I was about to ask you—
King: No. We don’t play these games here in Iowa. You’ve crossed the line. It’s not tolerable that you accuse me of being associated with a guy who shot 11 people in Pittsburgh. I have been a person who supported Israel since the beginning.
Q: Why did you travel to Austria to meet with a group with Nazi ties?
King aide: I think he’s given his answer.
Q: Do you identify as a white supremacist?
King: Stop it! You’re done! I want to ask whoever’s guarding the door to ask this man to leave the room.
Q: You could just answer my question.
King: Just go stand outside with a sign.