Steve King’s 2018 re-election bid was enthusiastically supported by an American white nationalist organization with extensive neo-Nazi ties known as Identity Evropa, chat server logs leaked to the media collective Unicorn Riot revealed Wednesday. On a national server run by Identity Evropa called the “Nice Respectable People Group,” members of the organization chatted about donations they made to King’s campaign (one commenting, “We need 100 Steve Kings in office,” another saying it was their first contribution since giving to Bernie Sanders in 2016), watched the vote tally roll in on Election Day, and celebrated the congressman’s Twitter endorsements of fellow white nationalists including Faith Goldy, a fringe candidate for Toronto mayor known for her embrace of white supremacist rhetoric and conspiracy theories whom King most recently promoted last Friday.
Reviews of the congressman’s presence in the chat logs by the Huffington Post and other news outlets focused mostly on the Identity Evropa connection. But the leaks also included logs from two servers for podcasts hosted at the time by Nick Fuentes — the same 20-year-old, alt-right commentator who was greeted by protests during an attempted stealth appearance on Iowa State University’s campus Wednesday night. Members of those chats also discussed King’s far-right political views. They encouraged other users to call their representatives in support of a bill sponsored by the congressman to end birthright citizenship, and suggested that King should run for president in 2024 (perhaps on a ticket with Donald Trump Jr., Tucker Carlson, or Pat Buchanan). Another said, “steve king is the closest thing to jesus in washington DC.”
Apparently by coincidence, news of the chat logs also came on the same day King released a memo (PDF) via his congressional office that he claimed “disproves a NYTimes Negative MisQuote beyond a reasonable doubt.” King was referencing the Jan. 10 article that quoted him asking, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Since its publication, he’s dubiously maintained that he was only referring to Western civilization.
“When [the left calls] Trump and Steve King white nationalists, they hurt their own objective and the term loses power by their very use of it.”
“A Lexis-Nexis search dating back to 2000 shows King has never used any of the following phrases: ‘white nationalism,’ ‘white nationalist,’ ‘white supremacist,’ or ‘white supremacy,’” the memo argues. “In the same time frame, King is quoted 276 times using the term ‘Western Civilization.’” The memo also cites the congressman’s contention that white nationalist “ideology never shows up in my head.” His yearslong promotion of its adherents aside, “Western civilization” is a term commonly used by white nationalists, as Identity Evropa chat room participant Asatru Artist noted last October: “We all know Steve King is literally dog whistling with ‘western civilization’.”
The Identity Evropa chat logs show that support for King remained strong after his 2018 election victory, although not without occasional concern. The organization’s leader, Patrick Casey (who goes by the name Reinhard Wolff), directed members to call the office of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to demand that he renege on his decision to strip King of his three committee assignments as a reprimand for the Times quote fallout. “Your task for today is to call Kevin McCarthy’s office and let them know that you stand with Steve King—that you take issue with McCarthy’s kowtowing to the left,” Casey declared Jan. 15.
“Steve King is more useful in Congress than as a nobody,” said a user named TMatthews on the same day. “He needs to be more careful about who he talks to and to not make tactless statements to the media.” A user with the handle Goose predicted, “steve king folded and will be on his way out.” In its introduction of the chat log leaks, Unicorn Riot dubbed the group’s members “neo-Nazi hipsters” and emphasized their “ongoing attempts to reform their public image” after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. It was at that rally where James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old, self-identifying white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one of them, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, whose memory was later honored in Spike Lee’s Academy Award-winning film BlacKkKlansman.
But most of the chat logs mentioning King, before the 2018 election and after, eagerly approved of the congressman’s barely veiled support for white nationalists and supremacists. In November 2017, a user named Evan noticed that King “just replied to the Defend Europa twitter account” belonging to the far-right website of the same name, which was apparently founded by Jason Bergkamp, a Dutch white nationalist who has tweeted memes praising Adolf Hitler and depicting Donald Trump as a Nazi gassing Hillary Clinton. (During his 2016 campaign, Trump himself retweeted a more innocuous tweet of Bergkamp’s.)
Last September, when King retweeted Lana Lokteff, a white supremacist YouTube personality with a history of anti-Semitic comments — adding a comment of his own likening “Leftists” to Nazis — the Nice Respectable People Group took notice. “I have hopes for Steve King,” a user going by Wood-Ape said in one of at least seven explicit mentions in Unicorn Riot’s database of the chat logs. “He retweets Aunt Lana.”
Other comments reveal logic resembling that of King’s denials that he shares the ideological views of white nationalists (there is no doubt that he indeed does, as the Informer has extensively documented), with one key difference. Both the congressman and members of the Identity Evropa chat room have dismissed labels like “white supremacist” as media smears. But whereas King also runs away from the label of “white nationalist,” members of the group embraced it, discussing their belief that politicians like he and Trump were effectively mainstreaming the ideology in part by taking the edge off of labels with more negative connotations. “As ‘neo nazi’ and ‘white supremacist’ lose their flair, surely in part thanks to good optics, the left is trying to turn WN [‘white nationalist’] into the new n-word for whites,” the user missliterallywho contended last November. “But when they call Trump and Steve King white nationalists, they hurt their own objective and the term loses power by their very use of it.”
The chat forums associated with Nick Fuentes, the alt-right commentator who visited ISU’s campus Wednesday, do not discuss King in nearly as much depth. However, the comments on them echo some of the same ideological viewpoints as those of Identity Evropa members, including a contempt for Jews, and Fuentes himself is on record making numerous remarks consistent with white nationalist ideology. The Informer was not on campus when Fuentes spoke, but Iowa State Daily student journalist Emily Berch reported that afterward, he became involved in a confrontation with a Jewish activist who “said Fuentes pointed out his yarmulke and stopped just short of calling him an anti-semitic slur.”
On Thursday, King was one of just 24 House members not to vote in favor of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, and the only member to take no position at all, instead voting “present.” The resolution was introduced by Democrats in response to comments made by Ilhan Omar, a newly elected Somali-American representative from Minnesota, critical of the Israel lobby’s influence in Washington and widely perceived as playing into anti-Semitic tropes. In January, King voted in favor of a similar resolution, titled “Rejecting White nationalism and White supremacy,” that was introduced (also by a Democrat) in response to his quote in the New York Times.
Unicorn Riot, the group that published the leaked chat logs, describes itself as “a decentralized, educational 501(c)(3) non-profit media organization of artists and journalists” whose “work is dedicated to exposing root causes of dynamic social and environmental issues through amplifying stories and exploring sustainable alternatives in today’s globalized world.” Founded in 2015, the collective’s other work has included its extensive coverage of the protest movement against the Dakota Access pipeline that now transports crude oil through the Dakotas and Iowa.