Amid escalating criticism for his incendiary rhetoric, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King flared up at a campaign event Thursday after a member of the public asked a question about his meeting with members of an extreme right-wing party in Europe.
“Do you identify as a white supremacist? Then why did you meet with a white supremacist organization in Austria?” a questioner asked at a candidate forum in Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reported.
“Stop it,” King fumed, his voice breaking. “You’re done.”
King faces criticism from activists and Jewish congregations in Iowa for meeting with a far-right Austrian political party with historical Nazi ties while on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust remembrance group.
King dismissed the Washington Post story that first reported details of that trip as “all falsehoods” at the forum. The Post later released a statement standing by its account.
For years, King has been censured by the Southern Poverty Law Center for comments the group calls “explicitly white nationalist.”
But the scrutiny has become more severe since Saturday, when a gunman motivated by an ideology of white supremacy shot 11 people at a synagogue in the largest hate crime perpetrated against Jews in U.S. history.
King dismissed the criticism as “Leftist Media Lies” and described the backlash as “Peak Insanity” in a tweet Thursday.
King will keep a low profile until Election Day. He has no campaign events scheduled through Tuesday, and his staff have stopped responding to media inquiries, according to local reports.
King faces a re-election challenge from J.D. Scholten. Inside Elections rates the race likely Republican.
The questioner at Thursday’s forum was Kaleb Van Fosson of Ames, the Des Moines Register reported. Fosson tried to ask King to defend a tweet the congressman wrote last year stating in part, “Culture and demographics are our destiny. We cannot restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Fosson drew a parallel to comments the suspect in the Pittsburgh tragedy wrote on social media the morning of the shooting.
Robert Bowers wrote on Gab.com that a Jewish charity that aids refugees “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.”
Fosson began by asking King, “You and the shooter both share an ideology that is fundamentally anti-immigration …”
King interrupted, “No, do not associate me with that shooter. I knew you were an ambusher as soon as you walked in the room. There is no basis for that. You get no question and no answer.”
Fosson tried again: “I was about to ask what distinguishes your ideology …”
“No, you’re done.” King said. He cited his support for Israel as proof he’s not anti-Semitic before asking security to boot Fosson from the event.
Fosson was among the protesters outside the venue before the forum began.
The demonstration was organized by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, according to the Register.
King reportedly entered through a rear door.