Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is standing by her Nazi-sympathizing campaign co-chair Steve King, the fringe white nationalist and Republican congressman who represents the college town of Ames, Sioux City and rural communities in northwestern Iowa.
This despite the fact that King gave a friendly interview to a far-right propaganda publication in Europe in which he outlined an overtly white nationalist worldview and supported anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the influence of liberal billionaire George Soros.
“Time and again we’ve seen Steve King spew hateful, divisive rhetoric while @KimReynoldsIA defends her campaign co-chair,” her Democratic challenger, Fred Hubbell, posted on Twitter Tuesday. “She’s been confronted by supporters, and even her own party leaders condemn his reprehensible actions. But the Governor continues to let him lead her campaign.”
King’s white nationalist views are hardly news, but in the aftermath of last week’s string of hate crimes, including the deadly shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, King’s rap sheet of outrageous comments and acts of support for Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists and racist fringe movements is finally drawing widespread condemnation from some of his fellow Republicans.
A recent poll, in fact, placed King and his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, in a dead heat, signaling a shift in a district Donald Trump carried by 27 percentage points in 2016.
The questions now are: What’s taken them so long, and why is Reynolds choosing to go down with King’s racist ship?
Issuing little but “thin-lipped denials that she agrees with his ideological extremism,” as the Des Moines Register noted Wednesday, Reynolds’ intransigence in keeping King on as her co-chair in the last days of her close gubernatorial race is much different than the reactions of other Republicans, corporate sponsors, conservative newspapers, and religious and community organizations.
Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, blasted King’s recent comments as “completely inappropriate.” Stivers called on all Republicans to “stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
Jewish congregations across Iowa have called on “all elected officials to stand with Iowa’s Jewish community, denounce King’s actions, and hold him accountable.”
On Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League, which does not normally endorse or oppose individual candidates, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calling on him to censure and punish King for his comments.
The conservative Sioux City Journal broke with previous campaigns and endorsed King’s opponent. “Each time King immerses himself in controversy, he holds up this district to ridicule and marginalizes himself within the legislative body he serves, neither of which provides benefit to Iowans who live and work here,” the Journal wrote.
“Why does Gov. Reynolds suffer Steve King’s hate?” the Quad-City Times asked earlier this year. One answer for the Republican Party has been King’s outsize influence over the state’s presidential caucuses. That role is now surely over.
Six days from now, with polls showing King and Reynolds both locked in close races, let’s hope a defeated Reynolds will be one of the Republicans with plenty of free time to consider her complicity in King’s shameless and hateful ways.
Jeff Biggers is the author most recently of Resistance: Reclaiming an American Tradition.