President Donald Trump said Monday that he hasn’t been following news surrounding Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King’s recent comments to The New York Times which were sympathetic to white supremacists.
Trump, asked about King’s comments on the south lawn of the White House, said, “I don’t – I haven’t been following it. I really haven’t been following it.”
Controversy was sparked after King asked the Times last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”
The comments were just the latest to stir outrage from the long-serving Iowa congressman.
King later condemned “anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology” of white nationalism and white supremacy.
Meanwhile, Trump himself engaged in racist dog whistles of his own over the weekend.
On Sunday, Trump sent a blatantly racist tweet about Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a potential 2020 contender, who shared a livestream video from her house. Trump, reprising his racist take on Warren, took aim at her claim to Native American heritage.
“If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” Trump tweeted.
Later Sunday, Trump quoted a blatantly white nationalist column written by Pat Buchanan, the former communications director for President Ronald Reagan.
“The United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist … And Americans will not go gentle into that good night,” Trump tweeted, quoting Buchanan’s piece, entitled “Memo to Trump: Declare an Emergency.”
In the same column, Buchanan wrote: “The more multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual America becomes – the less it looks like Ronald Reagan’s America – the more dependably Democratic it will become. The Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the US population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate.”
Trump in 1999 called Buchanan a “Hitler-lover” and an “anti-Semite” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A consistent Trump theme
The weekend tweets are a continuation of themes present during Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Trump, during a 2017 news conference following violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, attempted to equate white supremacists on one side with the “alt-left” on the other side. The comment came after his top White House aides spent days trying to clean up Trump’s initial response to the unrest, during which he blamed “many sides” for the violence which killed one person when a man attending the Unite the Right rally drove his car into counterprotesters.
Remarks from Trump’s presidential campaign announcement also mirror some of King’s own, long-held sentiments about immigrants.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump famously said during his campaign announcement in 2015. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
But it’s not just anti-immigrant sentiment and insensitivity to Native Americans that Trump has espoused. Trump has made insensitive comments targeting many racial, ethnic and religious minorities – including African-Americans, Muslims and Asians.
Trump’s political history with King
Though Trump said he hasn’t been following the news about King, he’s been a longtime ally of the Iowa Republican. In 2014, Trump recorded a robocall for King and participated in a private fundraiser in Iowa in King’s honor.
Trump, ahead of the fundraiser, said King was a “special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything,” according to the Des Moines Register.
Trump also told the newspaper that his ideology is so in sync with King’s that “we don’t have to compare notes.”
But King’s history of publicly stoking racist and anti-immigrant sentiment predates Trump’s 2014 support.
By 2013, King had already been the subject of media scrutiny for his comments suggesting that the DREAM Act would open the border to good students and drug mules in equal measure.
“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King told Newsmax at the time.
And ahead of Trump’s endorsement in 2014, King stated in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” – without evidence – that the parents of young girls sent to north to enter the US along its southern border had been giving them “birth control pills” ahead of the trip.
“This is a man-caused disaster, and the man that caused it is Barack Obama,” King said, calling the former president’s immigration policies an “advertisement that has been such a huge magnet that have caused these families to give their daughters birth control pills and send them down a rape path all the way through Mexico.”
King’s most recent comments have been rejected by Democrats and members of his own party, including top House Republican Kevin McCarthy, who vowed Sunday to reprimand King for his comments.
CNN’s Greg Krieg, Kevin Liptak and Dan Merica contributed to this report.