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Political Mercury

King could use N-word daily, still get re-elected here
At this point, the congressman is a mirror on all of us


Ladbrokes, a Goliath bookmaker in the United Kingdom, and organizations like it, lay odds on almost anything. If visiting London, you can bet on the U.S. presidential election, who will win and what party will prevail (the gaming ratios range, but Hillary Clinton is favored).

poli king vilsack3 12-10-25

Congressman Steve King has racked up blowout wins against challengers since his first election to the U.S. House in 2002. Photo by Douglas Burns

The oddsmakers sometimes go into what are called “exotics” — wagers on pop culture (3 to 1 that “Captain America” will be the highest-grossing movie of 2016) and politics (Tom Vilsack is 4 to 1 to be the next vice president, according to Betway), and more prominently sports.

These are often called proposition bets. And I have one.

I think Congressman Steve King could simply start short-cutting his rambling narratives on race relations and just incorporate — casually and regularly — the N-word (the ugly term used to describe black people) into interviews and speeches without jeopardizing his U.S. House seat in western and central Iowa.

Prep Iowa

In fact, I think King could publicly use the N-word at least once a day until Nov. 8 and still get more than 55 percent in the sweeping 4th District.

For nearly two decades now, driven by moral outrage and self-righteousness and a crusading journalistic zeal, many in the Iowa media, me at the top of the list where this is concerned, have chronicled King’s bulging-bully resume of provocations on race.

Our congressman is a master at finding or manufacturing controversy, issuing incendiary statements, and reveling in the national media attention that follows.

He’s compared immigrants to various animals, suggesting they are best handled with electric fences, or treated like stray cats and dogs. King has said that for every undocumented teen immigrant coming across the Southern border “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

In 2003, he compared homosexuals to unicorns and leprechauns. In October of 2014, talking with me in Jefferson, King said active gay people won’t make it to heaven.

“I’ll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven. So let’s stick with that principle,” King said.

In 2006, King 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 virgins in the afterlife.

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

I’ve been covering King a long time. That Helen Thomas comment is the worst in my view.

King is at it again.

During a panel at the GOP National Convention on MSNBC, King, responding to comments from Esquire’s Charles Pierce, said: “This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

MSNBC talk-show host Chris Hayes asked: “Than white people?”

“Than, than Western civilization itself,” King said. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

Later, in an interview with WHO-TV’s Dave Price in Cleveland, King doubled down, saying “leftists” in United States politics “have decided it’s open season on white people in America from an ideological standpoint, and I hope it stops there.”

It’s a good thing, congressman, the Chinese were around (in the 9th Century) to invent gunpowder, or we wouldn’t be able to use our 2nd Amendment rights to defend ourselves in the coming race war you seem to be predicting — or, more to the point, inciting.

My first takeaway: OK, what do you expect from King? It’s in line with past comments. The issue I had was the timing. King sounded off, blew the national racial dog whistle, hours before his congressional colleague, the far-more-classy conservative, Sen. Joni Ernst, was scheduled to give a high-profile speech to the Republican National Convention. It’s Joni’s night, Iowa’s night, Steve, for the love of God!

If King truly cares about advancing the conservative cause in Iowa, he should have done everything possible to train the spotlight on Ernst’s potential star turn — not go for the cheap camera grab, like a drunk uncle sucking up all the gasps and hushed chatter with a boorish wedding toast before the maid of honor raises her champagne flute.

King’s comments are no surprise to Iowans. They aren’t an aberration. King’s brain blasts fly into our lives in a predictable and abhorrent landing pattern we reinforce and second loudly, here-here-ing our man every two years as King racks up huge margins in re-election bids.

When King speaks, we own his words, all of us, his supporters, and failed detractors like me.

Either you backed him (169,834 people voted for King in 2014) or you weren’t good enough to beat him (count our editorial pages on the losing team here, along with those of The Des Moines Register and The Storm Lake Times and military veteran Jim Mowrer and the Vilsacks themselves) or you don’t care.

It’s sort of exhausting, Congressman, parsing your eager-beaver exchanges, sorting out the seemingly simultaneous from the clearly calculated, referencing your historical claims and revisions, analyzing the tone and tenor of what could fairly be described as naked-in-the-moonlight racism.

Cliff Note it for us, Congressman. Save us some time, Steve. Spare us the head scratching and searching. Skip the euphemisms; bury the professorial posturing. (Like anyone really thinks you’re an expert on 17th Century European history.)

Enough already. Just use the N-word, which is, as you know, an unrivaled verbal weapon at our disposal if we white men are truly under assault from the coloreds.

Iowa won’t hold it against you. Dresden-level N-bombing from your mouth, Mr. King, won’t even dent the 84.8 percent of the vote you received in Sioux County in 2014, the 60 percent you pulled in the 39-county 4th District that stretches from Harrison to Chickasaw, from Sioux City to Ames to Mason City.

A 3 to 1 says you can drop N-bombs like Halloween candy into the greedy hands of trick-or-treating kids and still find yourself on the winning end Nov. 8.

Any takers on this bet? Congressman, come on, you up for the challenge?

Anyone in bet-line-legal London listening? OK, 2 to 1 King can do it? Ah, what the heck, let’s go even odds. CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.burns doug 12-10-25



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