Did the Media Do to Rep. Steve King What it Did to the Covington Boys?

By John Zmirak Published on January 28, 2019

I’m sure you forgot by now. The piranhas moved on from one target to the next. But it still sticks in my craw how media, prominent conservatives, and even his own party did to Rep. Steve King … pretty much what they did to the boys from Covington Catholic. They took a snippet from a hostile journalistic source, and used it to damn and demonize someone. Truth really wasn’t the question.

To refresh your memory. Rep. Steve King is a strong American nationalist, a Trump Republican, and a border hawk. He’s also a bit naïve, culpably so at times. King has a record of being a little careless about expressing support for other foes of mass immigration — without looking closely enough at their other views. I learned to apply such scrutiny over 20 years of working on this issue. If you’re interested, read my recollections of fighting white nationalists and other evil cranks eager to hijack conservative groups.

King has paid for his carelessness, and I hope has learned his lesson.

Willful Distortions

At other times King’s views got caricatured or blatantly falsified. For instance, people claimed it was “racist” when he said that we shouldn’t be perfectly happy at our country’s falling birth rate. Just rely on immigrants to come in and inherit the earth. Outsourcing reproduction, along with all the other sweaty grunt work, is precisely what godless elitists would consider more “efficient.”

It’s also crazy. If your country isn’t a place where people even want to replace themselves, you’ve got some serious problems. The answer isn’t to open the borders to everyone from even worse places. It’s to figure out why your politics and economy are killing the family. We must treat that gaping social wound, not cover it up with human subsidies. I’ve said the same thing about my own Catholic Church, whose bishops in the U.S. lose 40 percent of native-born Catholics to apostasy, but instead of mending their ways just borrow fresh souls from Latin America. Before running them off too.

Steve King strongly denounced white nationalism and white supremacy. Something which partisans of that world view, I can tell you, never do. They double down. They’re proud of their hateful ideas, and want them known. Think of Richard Spencer, David Duke, and other hate-mongers. They won’t back away from what is their brand. It builds their mailing lists and helps those grifters make a living. Steve King isn’t one of them.

Before They Piled on the Covington Kids

But what happened to King a few weeks ago was different. He foolishly took a call from a New York Times reporter to talk about the hypersensitive race issue. He didn’t just hang up the phone, or insist on written questions, to which he’d give written answers. That was reckless. As reckless as walking in like poor General Michael Flynn to talk to the FBI, since he thought he had nothing to hide. Neither the Deep State nor the media monster ever deserve our trust. As the Covington kids, and all those conservatives who rushed to feed them to the crocodiles, have learned.

Here’s the quote in a New York Times story that got Rep. King denounced by his own party and pulled from key committees.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Does that sound a little strange to you? Like something possibly truncated, misreported, or stitched together? King said that it was, and strongly denounced white nationalism and white supremacy. Something which partisans of that world view, I can tell you, never do. They double down. They’re proud of their hateful ideas, and want them known. Think of Richard Spencer, David Duke, and other hate-mongers. They won’t back away from what is their brand. It builds their mailing lists and helps those grifters make a living. Steve King isn’t one of them.

Opining Instead of Reporting

No less a journalist than Brit Hume was struck by the rush to judgment. He said on Fox News:

He’s not going to get any awards for being a civil rights leader. But The New York Times did somewhat the same thing today. They had a big piece that said, ‘his long history of racist comments.’ I read every one of them. Some of them weren’t even about race. Some of them were about Islam. Islam is not a race, it’s a faith. Many of them might be considered insensitive, but they weren’t racist. Racism means a very specific thing, it means a belief in the superiority of one race over another. And it is taboo in the United States as well as it should be.

But we need to be careful flinging this term around, because what has happened to this tragically is this great triumph of the civil rights movement making racism indefensible and intolerable has been weaponized. And the term now, the adjective racist is hurled around with abandon, and is the kind of thing that we in the news media need to stay out of the middle of. We shouldn’t be getting involved in this. We shouldn’t be throwing the word racist around with abandon. We should be very careful in how we use it.

What NBC said to do in the first place which was to leave it to others to characterize as racist was the right call. The second call in my opinion was the wrong call. And that New York Times piece was completely bogus. I mean, those comments, look I don’t agree with them and I’m no fan of Steve King. Look, I’m sorry, they did not amount to racism.

But don’t take it from Hume. Take it from my friend Rev. Bill Owens. He serves as president of a black pastor’s group. Owens has worked in the Civil Rights Movement since the 1950s. He received training by Dr. Martin Luther King’s organization, and courted arrest desegregating lunch counters. Last week his group, the Council of African-American Pastors, issued a statement on King. I’ll reproduce it in its entirety.

African American Group Defends Congressman Steve King

Rev. William Owens, President of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP), defended Rep. Steve King (R-IA), saying that remarks made by the Congressman to a New York Times reporter were twisted in an irresponsible example of “outrage journalism.”

After speaking with several leaders who know Rep. King and conversing with King himself, Owens declared that the conservative Congressman has a long track record in defense of faith and family, but no history of racist behavior. Owens cited King’s explanation that he and the reporter had been talking about, “the changing use of language in political discourse.” In the course of the conversation, King spoke about labels increasingly used to slander conservatives by the Left, “who injected into our current political dialog such terms as Nazi, Fascist, White Nationalist, White Supremacist. Western Civilization, how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization … just to watch Western Civilization become a derogatory term in political discourse today?”

When printed, the Times story suggested that King didn’t understand how “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became offensive terms. However, in full context, it was clear that the Congressman was asking how “Western Civilization” became a negative term.

Rev. Bill Owens

Rev. Bill Owens

King said, “When I used the word ‘that’ it was in reference only to Western Civilization and not to any previously stated evil ideology, all of which I have denounced. My record as a vocal advocate for Western Civilization is nearly as full as my record in defense of Freedom of Speech.”

Despite this reasonable explanation and the clear manipulation of the interview on the part of the reporter, Rep. King has been subject to multiple attacks on his character and position ever since. Those attacks prompted Rev. Owens to speak out in his defense.

“Rep. King has always impressed me as a man of integrity and principle,” stated Rev. Owens. “While I understand that many do not agree with his politics, I cannot sit by while a man is made the subject of slander, personal attacks, and character assassination. Especially when the political motive in those attacks is so transparent.”

“It is clear that our culture has lost touch with the basic principles of decency, fairness, and sympathy for others,” Rev. Owens continued. “Too often, we are guilty of rushing to judgment – worse, of reveling in it and urging others to do so as well. We don’t stop to think about the effect this has on the lives of those who are subjected to it.”

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“I will no longer sit by and allow such ugly behavior to destroy good people and poison our culture,” said Rev. Owens. “I call on every American to take personal responsibility for stopping the advance of outrage culture. Don’t share the stories online. Don’t rush to judgment. And don’t patronize media outlets that trade in this type of ‘journalism.’ The increasing negativity and polarization in our country has its root in these kinds of attacks. If we want that to end, we must take the first step ourselves.”

Rev. Owens concluded by calling on Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to restore Rep. King’s committee assignments.

“We cannot let the biased media control Congress via these tactics of targeting, misquoting, and false branding. But that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Rep. King,” said Rev. Owens. “If we wanted to be governed by a New York Times reporter, we would have voted that way.”

He concluded: “I ask Rep. McCarthy to do the right thing as Minority Leader. Issue a public apology and reinstate Rep. King to his committee assignments. If we do not stand against this media-manufactured assault today, no one will be safe from it tomorrow.”

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