STORM LAKE, Iowa -- U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, denounced the Des Moines Register and the Associated Press during a fiery town hall appearance Saturday afternoon that attracted dozens to the Storm Lake Middle School.
King, who represent's Iowa's 4th congressional district, faced nationwide blowback this past week after he reportedly told a conservative group in a Des Moines suburb that his opposition to abortion includes cases of rape and incest, asking "Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?"
His comments, which were criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, prompted Ashley WolfTornabane of Storm Lake to take him to task at the town hall.
"Do you still stand by that?" WolfTornabane asked of King's words of opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest.
Turning to a defense he's deployed throughout this year after a New York Times report quoted him asking when terms like "white supremacist" and "white nationalist" became offensive, King told the crowd he was misquoted.
"The Des Moines Register misquoted me. The AP picked it up, they spread it to all kinds of outlets all around this country. It's no longer the circumstance in America that, when a newspaper misquotes you, you can call the editor up and they print a correction the next day," King said. "Social media spreads it like a virus, like a plague. And so, the Des Moines Register retracted their statement and corrected it, the AP retracted their statement and corrected it."
The Register did indeed publish a correction on the article, apparently adding a full quote from him where they had previously used an abridged quote, but they did not retract the article or any quotes from him; the corrected information did not appear to significantly alter the substance of what was said.
A video widely available online shows King making the controversial remarks.
Media disputes aside, King reaffirmed his opposition to all abortions.
"I'm defending innocent, unborn human life. I'm the author of the heartbeat bill at the national level, and also at the state level. I did not allow exceptions for rape and incest in that bill because, those babies that are born as a product of those activities, are as precious as you are, or any of my grandchildren are," King said. "They're all created in God's image too. I don't want to stigmatize those people in this country, or the world for that matter, if they were the product of rape or incest."
WolfTornabane, who said she is personally pro-life but would never vote for King, engaged in a heated back-and-fourth with the congressman on the subject of his rhetoric. She said after the town hall that she was unimpressed with King's response.
"He didn't really answer the question," she said.
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She wasn't the only attendee who brought a confrontational question to the town hall. Jose Ibarra, a Storm Lake city councilman who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1999, asked King about his notoriously inflammatory rhetoric on the subject of illegal immigration.
Ibarra said he was surprised to see the congressman visit Storm Lake, an immigrant-heavy community he described as "the wolf's mouth" for a politician like King.
"I have a laundry list of your quotes that are kind of offensive or demeaning towards immigrants," Ibarra said before paraphrasing some of King's statements on the subject. "We've all seen them, we've all heard them, we've all read them."
King, for his part, disputed some of the quotes Ibarra mentioned, while offering his support for an anti-abortion bill he says would save the offspring of minority communities.
"You wouldn't have any way of knowing this, but I happen to be the author and chief sponsor of a piece of legislation that's been brought farther in the United States Congress than any other, that saves the lives of more black babies, more brown babies, more Asian babies and also more white babies, than any other bill," King said.
Another attendee, Maggie Martinez, offered less of a question than a rebuke of the Congressman: "You have no significance in Congress. It is now time for us to elect J.D. Scholten." Her comment was followed by a round of applause in the room.
At least one person came to the town hall not diametrically opposed to King's politics. Steve Quirk of Alta, Iowa, asked the Congressman his views on so-called "red flag" gun laws, which allow courts and law enforcement to take guns away from people deemed potentially dangerous.
"I think everybody needs to have the right to protect themselves, and his family, has the right to own a weapon," Quirk said. "And I think red flag laws are horrible."
King agreed, telling a story of how he brought an 870 Remington shotgun to school in his youth to give a classroom demonstration on how to disassemble and clean it.
Guns, King said, are not responsible for mass killings; he gave a brief history of mass murders in U.S., including the 1927 Bath School bombing in Michigan -- and said the increasing frequency of such massacres is the result of cultural shifts and mental health issues, not because of readily available firearms.
He also criticized the difficulty of reclaiming a gun taken by authorities under a red flag law.
"Red flag laws, to me, are radical," King said.