Politics

Steve King Belittles NRCC for Supporting Gay Candidate

Embattled Republican makes joke about Supreme Court justices Kagan and Sotomayor ‘eloping to Cuba’

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has been under fire for taking positions supporting white nationalists. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Under renewed scrutiny for his incendiary comments about immigration and multiculturalism, embattled Iowa Rep. Steve King leaned on homophobia in his closing statement to voters Monday, according to video captured by Democratic trackers and other reports.

King ratcheted up his feud with the House campaign arm of the Republican Party, belittling the National Republican Congressional Committee for supporting a gay candidate in California.

“They sent money over to support a candidate in primary in California who was a, uh, had a sex-same partner that they put all over glossy mailers,” King said to a group of voters. “I don’t know if they were holding hands, or what was the deal. It’s hard to write a check to those guys when they do that.”

Last week the National Republican Congressional Committee signaled it would not invest any last minute cash into his race, despite the district appearing to be in play. 

Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, who chairs the NRCC, tweeted last week that King’s “recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”

The committee had not been spending in the race.

King has for years been censured by the Southern Poverty Law Center for comments the watchdog group calls “explicitly white nationalist.”

But the scrutiny has become more severe since October, when a gunman motivated by an ideology of white supremacy shot 11 people at a synagogue in the largest hate crime perpetrated against Jews in U.S. history.

There are no openly gay Republicans on the ballot this year in California, nor were there any last cycle. But in 2014, the NRCC supported former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio, who lost to Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, the Huffington Post reported.

The comments were captured in a video posted to Twitter Monday by Andrew Bates, communications director for House campaigns for the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, which serves as an opposition research hub for Democrats.

King earlier expressed that he is pleased with the conservative majority in the Supreme Court and joked that maybe conservatives will get lucky and  “Kagan and Sotomayor will elope to Cuba,” according to Adam Rubenstein, an editor at the conservative publication the Weekly Standard.

Rubenstein has previously referred to King as "America's Most Deplorable Congressman."

Even in the days since his condemnation by Stivers, other Republicans have been reluctant to peel away from King.

Soon after the meeting Monday in which he scorned the NRCC for supporting a gay candidate, he shared a stage with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a campaign rally, Iowa Starting Line reported

“When I don’t agree with what he says, I’m very open about that,” Reynolds told the Quad-City Times last week. “None of us agree on everything. I also cannot be held accountable for what every person tweets or says. I’m accountable for myself, and I am leading.”

Sen. Charles Grassley also gave King a thorough endorsement in a video posted on Twitter Monday.

"Iowa needs Steve King in Congress. I need Steve King in Congress," Grassley said.

King is not the only member or former member of the House Republican Conference who has taken homophobic shots at the NRCC.

Former New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrettcriticized the NRCC for supporting gay candidates in a House Financial Services Committee meeting in 2015, saying he would refuse to pay dues. Garrett lost his seat to Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer in 2016. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Iowa’s 4th District Likely Republican, but polls have shown his Democratic opponent J.D. Scholten closing the gap in recent weeks.

Watch: The Biggest Surprises in a Campaign Season for the Ages

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