Senior Republican King faces furor over support to Wilders

Senior Republican King faces furor over support to Wilders

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Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders of the PVV party smiles during a rally in Heerlan, the Netherlands, on Saturday. — Reuters
Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders of the PVV party smiles during a rally in Heerlan, the Netherlands, on Saturday. — Reuters

WASHINGTON — Senior Republican congressman Steve King has sparked a backlash on social media after tweeting his support for a right-wing Dutch politician who opposes immigration and has spoken against Islam, Geert Wilders.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa, in a tweet Sunday, paid tribute to Geert Wilders, a veteran member of the Dutch Parliament who founded the Party of Freedom. It came as the Dutch prepare for an election on Wednesday.

In the post on his verified Twitter account, King, who has served in the US House since his election in 2002, said: Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

King is among conservatives who have strongly advocated an end to the US practice of granting automatic citizenship to children born here to parents who are in the country illegally.

All children born in the US currently get citizenship under the constitution, including the children of families living in America illegally.

King has pushed for radical reform of the interpretation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution so that it no longer gives the children of undocumented migrants the right to a US passport. It seems Donald Trump is not the only politician who can bring social media to a screeching halt with an inflammatory tweet. Congressman Steve King has a history of walking on the edge of white nationalist rhetoric, and on Sunday afternoon he once again hit the hornet’s nest, perhaps in his most direct manner yet.

The outrage from Democratic politicians and commentators across the political spectrum was quick, ferocious and entirely expected. The bluntness of King’s message, the talk of “our destiny” and “other people’s babies”, ensured a vigorous response.

Of greater interest will be how Republican officeholders handle the controversy. So far they have remained silent. That may be increasingly difficult, as this is yet another indication of the growing bonds between the Trump wing of the Republican Party and white nationalist movements in Europe.

Breitbart, the conservative media outlet recently headed by White House senior advisor Steve Bannon, often sings the praises of Wilders, as well as France’s Marine Le Pen and Frauke Petry, leader of the Alternative for Germany Party.

Bannon has predicted the coming of a new “alt-right” order that will disrupt politics across the West. The question is whether establishment Republicans stay along for the ride.

King’s comments in support of Wilders on Sunday led to accusations that he was “openly peddling white nationalism”.

His post was retweeted by the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, with the words “sanity reigns supreme”.

Duke later tweeted: “God bless Steve King.”

But many were quick to denounce King, including former US President Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who described the Republican’s comments as “painful”.

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