(JTA) – Rep. Steve King refused to answer a voter’s question at a public forum about similarities between his worldview and that of the alleged killer of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The exchange, in which King, R-Iowa, brought up his support for Israel to discredit the legitimacy of the question, occurred on Nov. 1 during the Greater Des Moines Partnership Forum. The questioner began comparing rhetoric by the Pittsburgh suspect, a far-right extremist, and that of King, who has frequently promoted far-right material online and has spoken about the need to limit immigration to save the “shared civilization” of the United States and Europe. “Do not associate me with that shooter,” King interrupted, pointing at the questioner. “I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room, but there is no basis for that and you get no question and no answer.” When the questioner, speaking calmly, attempted to speak, King said loudly: “No, you’re done, we don’t play those games in Iowa. You have crossed the line. It is not tolerable to accuse me of being associated with that guy who shot 11 people in Pittsburgh. I am a person who has supported Israel since the beginning.”
King drew criticism this week from Ohio House Rep. Steve Stivers, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who called some of the Iowa lawmaker’s recent comments “completely inappropriate.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt sent House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., an open letter following the Pittsburgh killings calling on him to censure King, citing King’s relationship with Austria’s far-right Freedom Party. Last week, King met in August with members of the far-right party, which has Nazi roots, while on a trip sponsored by a Holocaust education group.
In June, King retweeted Mark Collett, a British white nationalist who has described himself as a “Nazi sympathizer.” King refused to apologize or delete the tweet despite criticism. Last month King endorsed Faith Goldy, a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto, who has claimed that “Canada is undergoing a ‘white genocide.’” King is facing mounting criticism within the Republican Party and a tough re-election bid.