Republican Rep. Steve King clashed with constituents as he defended several of his controversial comments on abortion and immigration during a Saturday town hall in his hometown of Storm Lake, Iowa.
King was asked in a tense exchange if he would defend comments he made Wednesday questioning whether there would “be any population of the world left” if you pulled people out who were “products of rape and incest,” according to a video posted online by The Des Moines Register, which first reported the remarks. The comments drew condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans.
King deflected the question, saying the “very active and vibrant left-wing media out there” had picked up The Des Moines Register’s reporting that misquoted King and “decided to do a hack job.” However, the question posed to him did not refer to the quote corrected by the Register. The quote corrected by the Register to which King referred referenced other members of Congress who co-sponsored his legislation.
King further defended his position on abortion and the federal ban he has proposed prohibiting an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, even in cases of rape and incest.
“I did not allow exceptions for rape and incest in that bill because those babies that are born as a product of those activities [rape and incest] are as precious as you are or any of my grandchildren are,” King said.
King went on to justify his view by comparing the stigma of being a child of rape or incest with the stigma of being the child of a single mother.
“There was a time, when I was your age, that if you grew up with a single mother, you were not considered equal to the rest of the people in your classroom,” King said.
King clashed with a constituent who identified himself as an immigrant when pressed for a response to his own quotes “that are kind of offensive or demeaning towards immigrants.”
In one instance, King denied having made the controversial statement in question and suggested to the constituent, “I think you’re reading some of this in Spanish,” a comment that caused outcry from the audience.
The Iowa congressman has a reputation for making controversial and sometimes racist remarks. In January, House Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments for defending the term “white supremacist.”
Constituents also confronted the congressman about some of his anti-immigration rhetoric, which King tied to the issue of abortion.
“I don’t want to see our population shrinking because we don’t care about ourselves enough to have our own babies,” King said.
King was visibly relieved when a constituent who agreed with him ideologically, though on the topic of red flag laws, saying, “I wonder how come it took you so long to show up.”
But that didn’t dampen criticism from the audience. Another constituent took an opportunity to promote JD Scholten, a Sioux City native who announced this month that he would once again challenge King for his seat in Congress, and slammed King, saying, “You have no significance in Congress.”
King pushed back, saying, “if that were true, why is all of America all wound up about this then?”