WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has been widely condemned this week after tweeting on Sunday that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Some Republicans, including the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), rebuked the congressman. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader, called the tweet “racist.”
But King had a few supporters ― former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, for example, was happy with his comments ― and he didn’t apologize. Instead, he defended his stance, tweeting on Monday a riff on President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: “Let’s Make Western Civilization Great Again!”
The only difference is that there are now people in the White House who share some of his views. Trump, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, policy advisers Steve Miller and Sebastian Gorka and national security official Michael Anton have echoed King’s apocalyptic anti-immigration arguments, and they’re advancing policies for which he has long advocated. Neither King’s office nor the White House responded to requests for comment.
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Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is interviewed by NBC News in the rotunda of Russell Building on Jan. 3, the first day of the 115th Congress.
Bannon used his position as executive chair of Breitbart News to advance an anti-immigrant message. King was a repeat guest on the “Breitbart News Daily” radio show, and Bannon introduced the lawmaker as “a mentor to me.”
On multiple episodes of the show, Bannon compared the refugee crisis to The Camp of the Saints, a French novel from the 1970s that is popular with white nationalists. King recommended the book on Monday during an interview with “The Jan Mickelson Show” on WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa. Its message is identical to that of King’s tweet: Nonwhite immigrants are invaders who will lead to the end of Western civilization.
Bannon also used the Breitbart platform to call the refugee crisis a “Muslim invasion” that “didn’t just happen by happenstance.” He asked radio guests whether the U.S. and Europe should shut down mosques, deport undocumented immigrants and slow legal immigration. Bannon’s major concern, as he told it, was: “Does the West have the will to win? Do they have the will to exist? Are we in a mode of self-surrender?”
Under Bannon, Breitbart also promoted right-wing nationalists in the U.S. and abroad. (Bannon called the site a “platform for the alt-right,” a phrase often used as a euphemism for white nationalism.)
One far-right leader who received especially fawning coverage from the site was Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who King praised in his tweet on Sunday. Wilders has his own author page on Breitbart, where he has claimed Islam “is primarily a totalitarian political ideology aiming for world domination.” He also attended a Breitbart “Gays for Trump” bash thrown by Milo Yiannopoulos, who was the site’s tech editor at the time.
Bannon and other members of the Trump administration have eagerly promoted King’s policy priorities. King boasted in January that John Kelly, Trump’s secretary of homeland security, visited his office and discussed national security in front of a model border wall. And after promising to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. during his campaign, one of Trump’s first actions as president was to enact a temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries ― a policy King argued he has the legal authority to enact, and which Wilders has also backed.
Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser, pushed for and and defended the travel ban. He worked closely with white nationalist Richard Spencer as a student, Mother Jones reported last year. (Miller has denied this, telling Mother Jones that he has “absolutely no relationship with Mr. Spencer” and “completely repudiate[s] his views.”) Miller also reportedly denounced multiculturalism.
Donald Trump appeared at a campaign event with King in 2014.
While writing under a pseudonym, national security official Anton argued last year that diversity is a “source of weakness” and that Islam is “incompatible with the modern West.” He also defended a group that invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes as “unfairly maligned.” Anton called The Huffington Post’s story on those passages “completely outrageous but sadly typical of the slander culture perfected by the modern Left.” He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on King’s views.
Gorka, another Trump adviser and former Breitbart News national security editor, has also cited Europe as a warning to the United States.
“If you look at Sweden, if you look at what’s occurred in France, Germany, the U.K., all of that put together is more than enough justification to explain, for example, our executive order on migration and refugee status,” he said last month.
Gorka was born in Britain to Hungarian parents, and previously worked in Hungarian politics with former members of the anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant party Jobbik. He now denies he knew the political background of the Hungarian politicians he formed a political party with.
Trump himself has praised King — and is helping turn some of his ideas into policy. They appeared together in Iowa in 2014 so that Trump could endorse King for Congress. King called Trump a friend and noted they share a “common cause” — rule of law, which King connected to securing the border. Trump, in return, referred to King as “a special guy” and “a smart person with really the right views on almost everything.”
[King is] a smart person with really the right views on almost everything.
Donald Trump in 2014
Trump has even echoed King’s ideas about European migration.
“It’s terrible what they have done to some of these countries. They’re going to destroy ― I mean, they are destroying Europe,” he said last May on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
He also argued last year that Muslims have trouble assimilating into the United States.
“It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close,” he said during an interview with Fox News. “I’m talking about second and third generation. They come, they don’t ― for some reason, there’s no real assimilation.”
King, the president and Trump’s team are wrong about Muslim immigrants and assimilation. Although many American Muslims are relatively recent immigrants, they are highly assimilated into American society, according to two Pew Research Center surveys of thousands of Muslims.
“U.S. Muslims — 81 percent of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants — are the most socially liberal and religiously tolerant in the world and becoming more so with each passing year,” David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, wrote last year. “Muslim Americans are quickly adopting the views of other Americans.”
On Monday, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer whether the administration had any reaction to King’s comments.
“I will definitely touch base with the president on that,” Spicer said.