U.S. Rep. Steve King, who has been fighting back against calls to resign amid his recent statements about rape and incest as they pertain to abortion, found a friendlier crowd in Audubon Tuesday in one of his final, county-by-county, town-hall meetings in his congressional district.
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, the first questioner simply wanted to notify King that the pheasant population seemed steady.
Later, on abortion, one constituent asked: “What motivates you on that issue? How can we help regarding that or anything else?”
That line of questioning, which came at the tail end of an hour-long event at the Audubon Chamber of Commerce, was far different than what he received recently in Storm Lake, where attendees took him to task for his comments about abortion and illegal immigration, which have drawn widespread criticism outside of his northwest Iowa district.
King began his response in Audubon by recalling how the birth of his first son strengthened a view that there should be no exceptions allowed for aborting an unborn child.
“I remember picking him up when he was not an hour old and just gazing at the miracle that he was,” King said, “and I said then, ‘There’s an aura about this baby.’ You could have convinced me he was the second coming of Jesus.”
King soon pivoted to confront the “firestorm” he has faced for his comments to the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, which he told: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”
He again claimed on Tuesday he was misquoted, even though the remarks were recorded and he admitted to reporters last week that he had said them.
“It was, again, misquoted,” King said Tuesday. “What I don’t know is if it was willful. It could be they just don’t — they can’t — understand.”
The Des Moines Register did correct a different quotation of his that it had published, but the misquote didn’t meaningfully alter the gist of what King had said.
King held a press conference Friday in Des Moines that featured a handful of anti-abortion activists, including Rebecca Kiessling, of Michigan, who says she was conceived when her mother was raped.
Kiessling travels the country as part of her organization “Save the 1,” which calls for no rape exceptions for abortion. She said she was not paid by King to attend Friday’s event.
“It’s not so much that he was misquoted,” Kiessling told the Carroll Times Herald in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It was his intent was twisted. Any time that happens, that hurts our cause. Any 100-percent, pro-life politician knows that their words are going to be twisted.
“What they’re suggesting is that he was defending rape and incest. That’s absolutely absurd.”
Kiessling said she has been accused of defending rape as well, especially after she posted on her website a photograph of her and her three daughters in which she held a sign that said “Conceived in rape. I love my life,” and her daughters held signs that said: “My mom was conceived in rape. I love our lives!”
Kiessling echoed King’s sentiment that vast portions of the population might have conception-by-rape in their family trees.
“His words were accurate,” Kiessling said. “With our history of slavery — black or white — there’s a chance you have so-called ‘rapist genes.’ That’s a fact.”
King also received support from Iowa Sen. Mark Segebart, a Vail Republican, who said his friendship with King dates back more than four decades. Segebart introduced King at the Audubon town hall.
“He’s a very religious man who doesn’t beat around the bush, but he reaches down and pulls the bush out by the roots — that’s kind of his nature,” Segebart said. “He’s the same guy I met in 1973. He doesn’t really change at all, so that’s admirable.”