For a politician whose time in public life has included both public support for a notorious terrorist organization and a willingness to oppose plenty of other things by comparing them to terrorism, it’s hard to be surprised by anything involving Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Nevertheless, a report Thursday by the conservative outlet Newsmax did the trick. It featured some of King’s allies pushing the idea that the longtime New York lawmaker, known for his tough talk and cable news ubiquity, could run for president in 2016. King followed it later in the day by saying he’s “not ruling anything out.”
If that were to happen, it could make King the Republican Party’s loudest, most over-the-top candidate since Herman Cain. With that in mind, TPM has compiled eight of the most memorable moments of King’s career so far.1. Support For The I.R.A.
Any examination of King’s political career invariably returns to his dubious past support of the Irish Republican Army, the terrorist organization that employed bloody methods to drive out British forces from the region.
At a 1982 pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, N.Y., King, then serving as Nassau County, N.Y. comptroller, urged support for “those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism.” By 2005, though, King said he had “cooled on Ireland” after he said “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” swept through the region following the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
2. Demanding A Journalist’s Prosecution
King raised some eyebrows last month when he suggested journalists who report on classified information should be prosecuted. A day later, he made it clear that he was calling out The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who broke news on leaked details of the National Security Agency’s top secret surveillance programs.
“I’m talking about Greenwald. Greenwald, not only did he disclose this information, he has said he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world and threatening to disclose that,” King said.
Greenwald swiftly shot back, disputing the claim that he ever threatened to divulge information on CIA agents. He also needled King for the congressman’s history as a “devoted terrorism supporter.”
3. Wikileaks As A ‘Terrorist’ Organization
Greenwald’s reporting wasn’t the first time King called for drastic action against people who published leaks of sensitive information. In 2010, he urged then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Wikileaks, the non-profit dedicated to disclosing government secrets, a terrorist organization. He accused Wikileaks founder Julian Assange of violating the Espionage Act and called the group a “clear and present danger to America.”
4. ‘Manhunters’ Raid With The U.S. Marshals
TPM reported last year that King breached federal law enforcement protocol when he tagged along on a operation to catch fugitives with the U.S. Marshals Service. The congressman erred in bringing along a videographer to document the raids inside private homes, which ran afoul of federal policy.
King’s office initially posted the video on YouTube. It carried the title “Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force.” After questions were raised, the office first edited and then ultimately deleted the video from YouTube. King claimed he “was in full compliance with what the Marshals set out as the proper procedures.” But the whole episode prompted the service to consider banning lawmakers and the media from future ride-alongs.
5. ‘McCarthy’ Hearings On U.S. Muslims
After Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, cementing King’s elevation to chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, he wasted little time announcing his intention to hold hearings on the “radicalization” of U.S.-based Muslims.
Critics decried the idea as a return to the days of Joe McCarthy. King dismissed the criticism as political correctness. But the first hearing was mostly a dud, with its focus largely centered on whether the hearing should have been held in the first place.
6. Call To Investigate The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’
There was a time, not long ago, when a lot of people were outraged because an Islamic community center was being built two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. It came as little surprise that King called for an investigation into the so-called “ground zero mosque.”
No investigation ever materialized and even King admitted that, although he found the construction of the facility “very offensive,” it could not be halted. The facility, officially known as Park51, opened its doors in September 2011.
7. There Are ‘Too Many Mosques In This Country’
In 2007, King’s misgivings weren’t necessarily with a specific mosque, but rather the total number of Islamic houses of worship in the U.S. He told Politico that there are “too many mosques in this country.”
“There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam,” King said. “We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.” He later complained that the quote was taken out of context, prompting Politico to post a fuller video to allow readers to decide for themselves.
8. Taking On His Own Party Over Hurricane Sandy
When Republicans delayed a vote on a relief package for victims of last year’s Hurricane Sandy, King turned his fiery temper on members of his own party. Calling the inaction “absolutely disgraceful,” King said anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes to GOP congressional candidates should have his “head examined.”
He vowed to keep opponents of the relief legislation, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in his “memory bank.” And when Rubio sought to raise money from Wall Street donors, King expressed shock that the 2016 contender had “the balls to come in and say, ‘We screwed you now make us president?'”