NBC News continues to demonstrate the bumbling with which our top news organizations continue to cover the descent of the Republican Party into madness, this time in the form of an email from the network’s standards department to its news staffers on what they are and are not allowed to say about Iowa Rep. Steve King’s latest racist shudder.
“Be careful to avoid characterizing [King’s] remarks as racist,” reads the email, which two NBC News staffers shared with HuffPost. “It is ok to attribute to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that.”
King’s remarks were, quote: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Focusing on the “white supremacist” part, it is difficult to parse out how disputing the offensiveness of an ideology that supposes white human beings to be inherently superior when compared to others could not be considered racist. Any lingering doubts—such as a supposition that King intended the question as a linguist or historian might, and was scribbling out a research paper on the subject when interrupted by a wayward New York Times reporter—are erased when you consider the speaker.
Rep. Steve King, longtime promoter of white nationalist and even neo-Nazi talking points and activists, was quite obviously again attempting to normalize and bring credibility to white nationalism and, just as directly, to white supremacy by declaring supposed puzzlement as to why it would be found “offensive.” Let’s not be children here.
There is nothing about Steve King’s career that is fuzzy on the point. He began his political ambitions by demanding English-only laws, seeking via legislation and lawsuits to bar government officials from providing non-English-language services. He has been furiously anti-immigrant and wall-obsessed throughout his career. He repeats white supremacist warnings that the Other is outbreeding white America, threatening our “civilization.” He famously sneered at immigrants brought to America by their parents as children, blasting efforts to legalize their status by claiming that for “every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling marijuana across the border.
But it has been in the last several years that King has embraced not just the talking points of racism, but white nationalist, supremacist, and neo-Nazi leaders. He has a fondness for toxic anti-Muslim Dutch racist Geert Wilders and boosted the far-right Marine Le Pen. He has promoted white supremacist tract “Camp of the Saints,” a gaudy tale of white civilization’s downfall at the hands of immigrants that has achieved cult status among neo-Nazi groups. He has on multiple occasions retweeted and endorsed the declarations of European white nationalist and neo-Nazi leaders.
And just before his latest re-election, he publicly endorsed an openly white-supremacist Toronto mayoral candidate.
King has been asked about white nationalism and white supremacy frequently. It is his most prominent national characteristic. He is not confused by the terms; he was not caught off-guard by the Times when it was brought up again. His response was to pretend to be confused as to why the ideology of white supremacy was considered offensive, the precise same rhetorical burp used by white supremacist groups themselves to claim respectability for their violent eliminationist views. It was no accident, and there was no question that he intended his answer as a defense of white supremacy as a legitimate public “question.”
Even House Republicans, who have a practiced blindness towards racist rhetoric from party members, could not feign confusion about what King was arguing, finally yanking him from his committee assignments as calls for official censure mount. The press need not feign gullibility on this. We are not, I repeat, children here.