King returns to familiar topics at Le Mars town hall as demonstrators air grievances

April 7, 2019

LE MARS, Iowa -- U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, returned to some familiar themes at a town hall Saturday afternoon at the Plymouth County Historical Museum.

King reminisced on his repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his concerns about the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. and his desire for a border wall, and his role in getting the Tanzania Miracle Kids to Sioux City for emergency medical care.

He also fielded, and made an attempt to answer, some more unusual questions -- including questions about electromagnetic magnetic pulse (EMP) attacks, the agricultural giant Monsanto and genetically modified organisms.

“We can protect our infrastructure for not a lot of money compared to what it would cost us, so why don’t we start down that path,” King said in answer to the EMP question.

All the questions asked were pre-approved by King’s staff.

Saturday was the eighth of King’s planned 39 town halls throughout Iowa’s 4th District. The first of the town halls, held in Primghar in January, came on the heels of a New York Times report where King was quoted as saying, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

At the Primghar town hall, King maintained he was misquoted by the paper.

The New York Times article, the latest in a long series of unflattering incidents during King’s tenure, drew a swift rebuke from King’s colleagues, and he was stripped of his committee positions for the next two years.

Gerald Toft of Hawarden, one of many King supporters in the mostly-friendly audience of roughly 60, asked if any Republicans had walked back their rebuke of the congressman. King replied that few if any of his colleagues have apologized so far.

In February, King did share a letter signed by 200 “pro-family” leaders who urged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “do the right thing” and reinstate him to his House committees.

“Just keep it up, we’re behind you 100 percent,” Toft said.

Outside the town hall, a group of roughly 20 anti-King demonstrators held signs and made brief statements about their displeasure with the congressman.

Kim Van Es, a Sioux Center English teacher and vice chair of the Sioux County Democrats, which helped organize the demonstration, said in a speech that she’s had enough of King.

“Steve King has never represented me. His values are not my values. I could never vote for a person who, as King did in a recent town hall, disparaged Hurricane Katrina victims,” Van Es said. She later rattled off a list of King’s controversies over the years.

“I could never vote for someone who insults minority persons, who are my colleagues, my students, my neighbors, my friends.”

For his part, King denounced the persistent suggestion he’s a racist as “baseless charges.”

“Everybody gets called a racist, so, that’s not unique to me,” he said.

On the subject of illegal immigration, King did not budge from his long-held positions, and said he’s concerned about non-citizens being counted in the census. Counting non-citizens, he warned, could give more congressional representation to states with higher immigrant populations.

He also described at length how he made a wooden model of a border wall, something he’s long been in favor of, to demonstrate to officials how simple it would be to build a wall across the southern border.

His model even included simulated concertina wire.

“People were just extremely offended by the idea,” he said.