House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) rewrote history Wednesday when he claimed to have swiftly removed Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committee assignments over “abhorrent” comments while asserting Democrats should do the same to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Arguing in an interview that Omar should be removed from her Foreign Affairs Committee assignment for what he called an anti-Semitic tweet (Omar has apologized for the tweet) McCarthy pointed to his own recent move stripping Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his committee assignments. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have also called for Omar to be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Omar’s tweet came in response to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s criticism of McCarthy’s call on Democrats.
“When I had a member of our conference say something that was, to me, abhorrent,” the minority leader said on Fox News, “we got together, not with the Democrats but with our own, in our own steering committee, and removed him from any committee at all.”
.@GOPLeader says he removed @SteveKingIA from committees after "I had a member of our conference say something that was, to me, abhorrent" — but King was making racist comments for years before Republicans acted. pic.twitter.com/qalIBAN1nT
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) February 13, 2019
It’s true that Republican leadership stripped King of his committee assignments shortly after he wondered aloud to The New York Times: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
But distinguishing this comment as uniquely “abhorrent” ignores a long history of similarly racist remarks from King, to which Republican leadership had no comparable response at all.
In 2013, for example, King said that for every young undocumented immigrant “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
In 2016, King said in an interview at the Republican National Convention: “I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
King stumbled when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked if he was referring to white people. “Than—than western civilization itself that’s rooted in western Europe, eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where christianity settled the world,” the congressman responded.
In 2017, he proclaimed “demographics are our destiny” and “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” then said it was “ridiculous” that then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for Republicans to strip him of his committee assignments. (They didn’t.)
Then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) dismissed it: “I would like to think he misspoke,” he said of King.
In June of last year, King retweeted a well-known British neo-Nazi, to complete silence from his fellow congressional Republicans.
A full two weeks later, Ryan said through a spokesperson: “The speaker has said many times that Nazis have no place in our politics, and clearly members should not engage with anyone promoting hate.” King responded, accurately: “His spokesperson made a general comment that didn’t even have my name in it.”
Just a few months later, in September, King retweeted popular white nationalist YouTube host Lana Lokteff — who’s said becoming a white ethnostate is “the best” option for America — to, again, silence from Republican leadership.
In October, King endorsed white nationalist Faith Goldy to become Toronto mayor. Predictably, at that point, Republican leadership did not respond to the endorsement.
Land O’Lakes, the agriculture cooperative, issued a stronger rebuke of King than anyone in Republican congressional leadership at the time when it announced later in October that its political action committee “will no longer support King” with campaign donations. House Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, soon followed suit.
McCarthy, first elected to Congress in 2007, first joined House Republican leadership in 2011, when he was elected the party’s House whip. He was elected majority leader in 2014 and minority leader this year.