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Political Mercury

King chart-topper: Making fun of an old lady

7/31/2013

In 2006, U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican, suggested that iconic journalist Helen Thomas, then 85 years old, was ugly, in a joke about radical Islam’s belief that martyrs will be rewarded with lusty virgins in the afterlife.

“There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) is at,” King said at an Iowa GOP state convention. “And if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas.”

Our firebrand legislator is at the center of another storm this week after his thoughtless comments on immigrants who are in the United States without proper papers.

“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 because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King told the conservative website Newsmax.

He doubled down on the remarks in an interview published in the Omaha World-Herald last Wednesday and has tripled down elsewhere. No back-off. No contrition.

I’ve spent more than a decade chronicling King’s often outlandish statements. When Helen Thomas died last Saturday at the age of 92, King’s crass bullying of her seven years ago jumped to mind.

It’s arguably the worst thing he’s said in public office — contemporary words about Latinos considered.

The Thomas remark is just pure cruelty. It’s not aimed at animating a particular constituency or flagging down the fleeting attentions of national reporters to a King cause.

It’s also just flat-out creepy, the stark public sexualization of an 85-year-old woman, the suggestion that Thomas somehow, in her November years, fell short of what the congressman finds alluring in the female form.

King’s post-menopause base ought to really consider how he thinks about them. What was Helen Thomas’ crime, Mr. King? Growing old? Not being bikini-and-centerfold ready? Just how do you expect women to look when they are 85? Who insults the appearance of grandmothers?

Consider this when it comes to King: No one living between Interstate 35 and the Missouri River in Iowa has a larger platform than King. He’s speaking for them. They elected him. They own his words, every last one of them. He is the ambassador to 7 billion people.

There’s also a question of time management where King is concerned. Regardless of your politics, do you really want a congressman who spends time sparring with talking heads about the partisan angles on the latest personality-driven Washington, D.C., drama? King has also used our money and time with his staff out filming war protesters (for what ends, he’s never made clear) and complaining about the name of a post office in California and telling us that disgraced red-baiter Joseph McCarthy is a “hero for America.”

King apparently sees a different western and central Iowa than I do.

With the crossroads of energy and agriculture becoming increasingly intriguing and fraught with long-term concerns and revolutionary potential, we need a measured thinker interested in focusing like a laser on these issues in committee and community rooms, someone who, quite frankly, views the lights of the sensational media and their issues of the moment as distractions to be avoided. We need a congressman with a long game.

King will and has, of course, said he’s capable of doing it all.

burns doug 12-10-25But even considering his borderline messianic personality, King surely must realize that time is finite.

We all grow old and die and don’t always look the role of calendar girl or GQ man during the wrinkled journey.

But beware. Congressman Gossip Girl is armed and ready to mock. So curl that hair, get that lipstick just so, ladies, and make sure you apply the right perfume when King visits your nursing home, or he’ll loose the meanness on you. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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