Representative Steve King told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday that he is not a racist — but he wondered when terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became something unsavory and wrong.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
It’s not such a shocking question from the Iowa congressman, who is known for vocalizing white nationalist viewpoints. In the past year, King endorsed a white nationalist for mayor of Toronto, had an interview with members of a far-right Austrian political party with historic Nazi ties and retweeted a British neo-Nazi and refused to apologize for it.
The Times article highlights how King tried to implement his hardline stances on immigration long before President Trump’s government shutdown over a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico — King once presented a model of a 12-foot border wall on the House floor.
King told the Times that he’s not racist, and offered as proof his Twitter timeline showing him greeting a diverse group of Iowans in his office — where, the Times noted, he used to display a Confederate flag.
After a surprisingly narrow election victory over a underfunded Democratic challenger in last year’s midterms, King is now facing a primary challenge from Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra. State governor Kim Reynolds has said that she will no longer endorse King.