There was a quote in The New York Times’ recent story on Representative Steve King that grabbed headlines, about his wonderment over when terms like “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became negative, offensive.
But that angle had been covered before — he has been vocal about his white nationalist viewpoints since 2006 — so that quote lingered 700 words down the article, “Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics,” which actually focused on how the Iowa congressman has been advocating for stronger border control long before President Trump took office.
“The quote that has led to this uproar was not even the lead King quote in the article,” an unnamed Times insider told CNN’s Brian Selter. “The focus of the piece wasn’t King’s embrace of white identity politics, which we assumed was well known, but about how that ideology fed so directly into Trumpism…”
The article begins with how, years before the government was shutdown over the lack of funding for a wall separating the U.S.-Mexico border, King of Iowa presented to the House a model of a 12-foot border wall he had designed. He also was among the first to turn misleading data about victims of undocumented immigrants and degrading viewpoints of Latinos into real conversations.
The story is about how his once-fringe views have become widely accepted since the president began repeating them. Yet, even before Trump, King’s commentary has rarely received the outrage spurred by this middle-of-the-story quote: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org