Steve King Again Claims McCarthy Is Helping Him Regain Committee Assignments

During a virtual forum hosted by the Story County GOP, the embattled congressman suggested he had assurances from the majority of his party’s steering committee that he would be reinstated. He also claimed that the New York Times reporter who quoted him on white nationalism was working on another hit.

Screenshot via Republican Party of Story County/Facebook

Find all of the Informer‘s comprehensive coverage of Congressman Steve King and his history of promoting white nationalist views right here.

During a 4th District primary forum hosted virtually Saturday evening by the Story County Republican Party, Congressman Steve King reacted to pushback he received after claiming at a recent forum in Spencer that he’d worked out an agreement with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to get his committee assignments back, assuming he’ll be re-elected. McCarthy himself disputed King’s assertion then that he would soon have his “time for exoneration.”

Saturday, on Facebook using the videoconferencing program Zoom, King was asked by forum co-host Brett Barker, Nevada mayor and chairman of the Story County GOP, about losing his assignments. (The reason for this, which Barker did not get into, was a New York Times article published in January 2019 that quoted him asking, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”)

King sat at a desk in front of a framed print of Arnold Friberg’s The Prayer at Valley Forge, which depicts George Washington kneeling in the snow beside a white horse. He grabbed three sheets of paper from the desk. “This is a list of the steering committee members,” he said, referring to the 30 representatives who would be responsible for deciding whether to reinstate his seats on the agriculture, judiciary, and small business committees. The papers were “marked up on who’s going to vote with me and who’s going to vote against me,” King said, and he’d “found only three that would vote against me in the steering committee. They’re the three the press found on the first day — amazingly, isn’t it?” He added, “I think we’ve got at least 26 that are a yes.”

“I’ve been working this with Kevin McCarthy” on getting his committee assignments back, King claimed, despite the minority leader’s earlier statement that the congressman’s comments about white nationalism “cannot be exonerated and I never said that.” King went on: “We’ve done several meetings this year, and then you add to that the texts and the phone calls, multiple communications on this.”

One of those calls took place on Sunday, April 19, said King, who put on his reading glasses and read from the “meat” of a transcript he also had sitting on his desk. “Will you go to the steering committee and advocate on my behalf to restore me to all my committees?” King had asked McCarthy, according to the transcript. “Kevin McCarthy’s answer was — direct answer, he said one word — ‘Yes.’

“And so then I went on and I said, ‘I don’t need anything, Kevin. I don’t need any kind of compensation, I don’t need any retribution or anything of that nature. We just need to fix it and put it the way it needs to be.’ And his answer was, and I’ll quote, ‘No, I appreciate that. That was one of the things that really helped me make the decision, is when you told me that.’

“So, when I got to Washington last week, I heard Kevin McCarthy’s statement at a press conference around noon, and concluded it was better not to be talking to him but to be talking to the steering committee instead.” But King claimed that McCarthy “didn’t misinform people” by saying then that his comments couldn’t be exonerated, “when you do a precise analysis of that — he just didn’t take the opportunity to clarify what I’ve just clarified.”

Immediately before this, King suggested that the publication of the Times article was part of a grand conspiracy against him after he defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten by an extraordinarily narrow margin in November 2018. “This was orchestrated from the beginning,” he said. “I knew they were coming at me as early as the day before Thanksgiving in 2018, when a top political operative came to me and said, ‘They’re going to try to ambush you again. They are mounting a coup against you, and they believe that they can bring the force of all the media in America against you, a massive media broadside, and’ — used these words — ‘force you to resign.’”

His story continued cryptically. “He said, ‘My advice to you is preempt this at the White House. Here’s the messenger that they plan to use.’ And so what I did was preempted it at the White House. I went to the messenger on January 8. I knew I was sending a signal up to the people that were planning this, and I walked out of that place at — oh, let’s see — 4:40 pm that day on January 8. The next morning, at 11:23 am, Randy Feenstra announced on Twitter that he’s running against me. I think he had to have a little time to delete 10 years of tweets, he scrubbed every tweet, and then in his first tweet is that he’s running against me. And the following day, the New York Times story came out.”

King said he now has “a recording device that I keep with me at all times, and so I do turn that on when I need to be doing the recording of people” — including, as a “caution,” he said, when he recently spoke with Kevin McCarthy. The Times interview wasn’t recorded by either party, both acknowledged. “And also,” King added, “I don’t plan on doing a lot of communication with those types of media.”

The congressman then claimed that the reporter who quoted him on white nationalism was working on another hit. “We’re being pinged now by The New York Times. Trip Gabriel wants to write another story. We had a discussion yesterday, do we answer him or don’t we? As tempting as it is to give him an answer, we don’t want to give him another excuse to write another story. We’re going to stay away from some of those folks, but we cannot let them decide who is or who isn’t going to represent the people in the 4th Congressional District. And right now, there’s a powerful amount of influence coming out of the northeast coast.”

The June 2 primary is about a week and a half away. With internal polling from the campaign of Feenstra, a state senator and the congressman’s top rival, showing the race neck and neck, the result will determine whether J.D. Scholten has a second shot at the stunning upset against King he came 3.4 points away from pulling off in November 2018.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.