Steve King Endorsed By Lawmaker Whose Wife Used N-Word in Her Classroom

Representative Steven Holt is one of eight current and former state lawmakers who share many of the congressman's far-right views and endorsed him in a Wednesday press release

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

With less than a week to go until the contested primary for his 4th District seat, embattled Congressman Steve King on Wednesday announced endorsements from eight state lawmakers, one of them retired. Among the endorsers is Steven Holt, a House member from Denison whose wife was briefly placed on administrative leave late last year as students planned a walkout protesting her use of the N-word in a high school government class she teaches.

“I know Congressman King,” Holt said in a video posted by pro-King news site The Iowa Standard. “I know that he believes his conservative values will lift up everyone, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of creed. I know that he embraces the values that made America and Iowa great, and I know that he fights for those values as hard as he possibly can.”

Holt’s wife, Crystal, returned to teaching last November after an internal district investigation concluded that she had no malicious intent in using the N-word as she described a death penalty case involving racism. Holt defended her, suggesting she’d been set up and taken out of context and referring to a 2018 hearing in which he spoke out against a bill to reinstate capital punishment in Iowa because he had “great issues with its practical and prudent and fair application.”

However, as the Informer previously reported, Crystal Holt’s personal Twitter account contradicted this narrative in racist tweets she shared on it, including one portraying black youths as thugs, another falsely accusing US Representative Ilhan Omar of wanting to turn the country into a Marxist “Somalia like state,” and several others with videos of African Americans downplaying racism. Other tweets she shared expressed hardline anti-immigration views and promoted conspiracy theorists including a contributor to Alex Jones’ InfoWars.

Steven Holt, too, has promoted discredited figures on his own Twitter account, including Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and Candace Owens, a right-wing African American commentator who earlier this week claimed that black people act “like a fucking trained chimpanzee” whenever the media reports on the murder of an African American by a white person. In March, he shared a tweet from Donald Trump in which the president claimed that the dangerous, unproven drug hydroxychloroquine had “a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” in fighting the coronavirus.

The state lawmaker also shares many of King’s staunchly conservative views; last year, for example, he managed the passage of a bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from federal raids. In the video endorsing King, Holt praised the congressman for his help in getting a fetal heartbeat law passed last year in the Statehouse (it was later declared unconstitutional). King has repeatedly attacked his main primary rival, state Senator Randy Feenstra, for receiving an endorsement from the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, which the congressman has sparred with because it hasn’t taken a no-compromise approach to opposing the practice.

In the video, Holt also criticized “slanderous mailings that are being sent out against Congressman Steve King,” singling out a pro-Feenstra super-PAC called Defending Main Street that faulted King for voting against a coronavirus relief package. “Congressman King was trying to stop the Democrats from using the coronavirus emergency to advance their radical agenda — spend billions of dollars in trying to transform the nation into something most of us would not even recognize,” Holt said. The super-PAC has spent $100,000 opposing King, who has not aired a single TV ad during the primary and has been significantly outmatched by Feenstra in both endorsements and fundraising.

The other lawmakers mentioned in Wednesday’s press release who are sticking by King share the congressman’s hardline views on issues including abortion, immigration, and gay rights. Here’s a look at them.

Representative Tedd Gassman

In 2019, Gassman gave Steve King’s contention that the US Supreme Court’s ruling affirming same-sex marriage rights meant people could marry their lawnmowers a run for its money. That March, the state rep introduced a bill proposing an “elevated marriage Act” that would allow couples — one man, one woman only! — to commit to a lifelong partnership after receiving marriage counseling and filing a declaration of intent with the county. Under the act, someone in an elevated marriage raising a minor child would only be able to divorce if their spouse cheated on them, abused them for wanting to separate, was imprisoned for a felony, or lived in a separate residence for two consecutive years.

Senator Dennis Guth of Klemme

A former board member of The Family Leader, the anti-gay organization founded by Feenstra supporter Bob Vander Plaats, Guth took to the Senate floor in 2013 to complain about the “health risks that my family incurs” because of the rate at which gays and lesbians infect each other with STDs. “For example,” he said, “there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth.” He added that “many civilizations have fallen” as a result of homosexuals destroying the traditional family unit. This February, Guth introduced a bill — inspired, he said, by a constituent whose spouse “falsified his sexual orientation” — that would require Iowans to disclose their sexual orientation on their marriage licenses. Lying would be considered fraud, with legal repercussions as severe as those for domestic abuse.

Former Representative Ralph Klemme of Le Mars

Klemme actually endorsed King in February at the American Bank in Le Mars, telling the crowd of 40 people attending the event that he supported his former Statehouse colleague’s positions on the budget, abortion, and agriculture — the focus of a House committee King served on until his assignments were stripped. The former lawmaker was appointed to the state’s Environmental Protection Commission by Democratic Governor Chet Culver in 2007 but stepped down early to protest the rejection of two CAFOs proposed in the Raccoon River watershed. “Yes, he can be stubborn,” Klemme said at the event to laughter, dismissing the controversy surrounding King. Afterward, he told a local radio station that he endorsed King after he “talked to the Lord about it.”

Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig

After King was quoted in The New York Times in January 2019 defending white nationalism, Schultz rose to his defense, claiming the congressman wasn’t racist. He reiterated this in his endorsement: “When my friends are wrongly attacked, I stand by my friends.” But Schultz’s own record isn’t exactly clean. During a 2015 radio interview, he ranted about Muslim refugees, calling their resettlement in the US “an invasion” that would allow them to spread “their own theology by force” as they received government handouts and refused to assimilate. Already, he claimed, “concentrations of Middle Eastern refugees or migrants” were “coming in and taking over communities.” That same year, Schultz called progressive journalist Laura Belin a “traitor” for suggesting the Confederate flag was racist. He’s also compared Nazi Brownsirts to anti-fascist protesters. In February, he proposed hiring a private firm to conduct quarterly welfare eligibility checks for the 600,000 Iowans receiving public assistance, joking that he’d been “compared to Dr. Evil” for it.

Senator Mark Segebart of Vail

On his way to retirement, Segebart also endorsed King in February, telling the Carroll Times Herald, “I think he’s able to speak truth to power better than anybody currently in the US Congress, and for that reason, he’s picked on a lot.” In the Senate, Segebart joined Feenstra in supporting constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. He also joined 15 other GOP colleagues in 2013 — including Informer favorite Mark “Chickenman” Chelgren — in support of a Family Leader-backed threat to withhold funding for the Des Moines Area Community College if it used taxpayer money for a LGBTQ youth forum sponsored by Republican Governor Terry Branstad. In endorsing King, Segebart said, “He has shown not just a willingness, but an ability, to articulate our core conservative convictions that are so often so right yet lack someone who can convey the right message.”

Representative Mike Sexton of Rockwell City

Praising him as his “mentor when I was first elected to the Iowa Senate” in his endorsement, Sexton said the 4th District was “fortunate” to have a congressman “as committed to conservative principles and as dedicated to conservative causes” as King. “Often our neighbor, our friend, our representative leaves for Congress and comes back a politician,” he added. “Congressman King has remained true to himself, true to his convictions and true to his Fourth Congressional District roots.” This year, he co-sponsored a bill with 47 other lawmakers, including Gassman and Holt, to add a controversial definition of anti-Semitism to state reviews of discriminatory acts that opponents argued would stifle free speech, in particular the criticism of Israel.

Senator Zach Whiting of Spirit Lake

A former congressional staffer in King’s office, Whiting is one of Iowa’s youngest state lawmakers. He won election in 2018, taking the seat of David Johnson, who left the Republican Party two years earlier in protest of Donald Trump, comparing the presumptive presidential nominee to Hitler and slamming him as a “bigot with racial bias.” When Feenstra announced his primary challenge in January 2019, Whiting said he was “skeptical and disappointed” with his timing (at a recent forum, King suggested the timing was part of a conspiracy against him aided by The New York Times). Earlier this year, Whiting advanced a bill that would require police to compile additional data about crimes committed by non-citizens, which critics argued would encourage officers to racially profile Iowans.

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.