Congress

New calls for Rep. Steve King to resign in wake of graphic comment about rape and incest

Liz Cheney, No. 3 House Republican, joins Democrats in calling on Iowa congressman to stand down

Iowa Rep. Steve King is facing renewed calls to resign. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Iowa Rep. Steve King is facing new calls to resign in the wake of his latest inflammatory remarks — this time for saying humanity might not exist were it not for rape and incest.

Speaking before the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, the Republican congressman made the comment while defending his opposition to exceptions for rape and incest in anti-abortion legislation, The Des Moines Register reported

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King told the 50-person crowd. “Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”

“It’s not the baby’s fault for the sin of the father, or of the mother,” he continued.

Democratic presidential candidates — including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth WarrenKirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden — followed up with calls for King to resign.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3. Republican in the House, joined in the resignation chorus, saying King’s remarks were “appalling” and “bizarre.”

“As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better,” the House Republican Caucus chairwoman said in a tweet.

But Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who is up for reelection next year, was not ready to go that far.

“I guess I would need to read the whole story to maybe understand the context. But I would want him to clarify that. I have very strong feelings about women that have been raped,” she told CQ Roll Call in Parkersburg, Iowa. Earlier this year, the first-term senator disclosed her own rape when she was in college.

An Ernst spokeswoman later said that while the senator was “proudly pro-life … it is without question that instances of rape or incest should be condemned.”

Ernst also pointed out that King has a “tough primary coming up” as he seeks a 10th term next year, but said she would not be endorsing in the race.

One of King’s Republican challengers, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, slammed the congressman Wednesday, saying President Donald Trump needed “defenders in Congress, not distractions.”

“I am 100% pro-life but Congressman King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause. We can’t afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress,” he said in a statement.

Democrat J.D. Scholten, who recently launched his second bid for King’s seat after holding the congressman to a narrow 3-point win in the deep-red district last year, also condemned the remarks. 

“Yet again, Steve King puts his selfish, hateful ideology above the needs of the people of Iowa’s 4th district. Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Previous remarks

This isn’t the first time King has come under fire for incendiary comments. 

He faced heavy pressure to resign earlier this year after he told The New York Times: “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?”

House Republican leadership booted him from his committee assignments in response, and the House voted overwhelmingly to rebuke his remarks, adopting a resolution condemning white nationalism and white supremacy. King has contended he was misquoted.

“Hardly anybody asks me about The New York Times issue from January,” King told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday during an interview at the Iowa State Fair. “They know it was a railroad job, and they know I was backstabbed.”

King has also faced condemnation for promoting neo-Nazi accounts on Twitter, attacking immigrants and multiculturalism, and for praising and meeting with far right politicians from Europe.

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he tweeted in 2017, echoing the “great replacement” white nationalist conspiracy theory that children of native white people are under threat from the children of nonwhite immigrants.

Town hall

King held a live-streamed town hall Wednesday in Rockwell, Iowa, just hours after the news of his latest remarks broke.

The first question he got was from a woman who described herself as a veteran school teacher who challenged his opposition to an abortion exception for rape or incest. She mentioned a fourth-grade student who was raped and impregnated by an uncle, and asked whether King would expect that 10-year-old to bear the child.

King said he had not heard of such an extreme case and would have to consider it, but he did not want to support a broad exemption and asked the woman to suggest a solution.

At another point, a constituent yelled for minutes on end from outside the town hall as King spoke. The man briefly interrupted the proceedings, yelling into the room that King was a “neo-Nazi” and should “go home.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.