HORNICK, Iowa – Holding his first public town hall meeting in Woodbury County in several years, Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King on Tuesday said he doesn't support the popular election of presidents, discussed the "injustice" of losing his committee positions and preceded it all by specially honoring Hornick residents who evacuated the town for a few days following March flooding.
The recognition ceremony for "acts of valor" was held at Hornick's city hall, where 55 people saw King give honors to six residents. King lauded the work of Mayor Scott Mitchell, who colorfully began his remarks by saying people like himself were thrust into action by the flooding.
"(Expletive) went to hell in a hand basket in Hornick," Mitchell said. "Hell, I didn't know what to do."
A mandatory evacuation was ordered in Hornick on March 14, after snow melt and a breached levee on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River caused extensive flooding of city streets. The 219 Hornick residents were allowed to return home March 18 after the floodwaters receded.
Two months ago, Gov. John Bel Edwards and other top Louisiana officials via Twitter and other means condemned King for his comments comparing victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with western Iowans inundated by flooding.
The outcry came after King, during a town hall meeting in Charter Oak in March, recounted a conversation with an unidentified Federal Emergency Management Agency official, who praised Iowans for their willingness to help each other.
"But here’s what FEMA tells me: ‘We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?’” King told the audience at the Charter Oak meeting. "We go to a place like Iowa, and we go, we go see, knock on the door at, and say, I'll make up a name, John's place, and say, 'John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you.' And John will say, 'Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It's Joe that needs help. Let's go down to his place and help him.'"
In praising Hornick residents Tuesday, King related a discussion with a FEMA official in Kansas City, with disappointment some personnel from that agency couldn't get to Hornick sooner. He said Hornick residents started the cleanup themselves and persevered, and King appeared to double down on his Charter Oak comments, in reference to Louisiana and Katrina.
"I've been to other disasters, hurricane disasters, where people didn't step up like you all stepped up here in Hornick. And so, I mentioned that. I am going to omit the geography here, so we don't end up with a national media firestorm," King told the crowd.
"But everybody in that state had to get on their Twitter account or do a press conference to tell how offended they were that, I guess, they didn't meet the standards of Hornick."
After a few years of not holding public town halls, King, who lives in Kiron and is in his 17th year in the House, pledged at the start of this year to hold one-hour meetings in each of the 39 counties of the 4th District. The Woodbury County town hall was his 16th this year. King's choice of the venue meant the town hall did not take place in Sioux City, the largest city in the county and the 4th District.
In January, King was stripped by Republican leaders of all his committee assignments for the next two years, following a national uproar over King's quote in a New York Times story in which he asked, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"
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The first question of the day came on that topic, when Bill Bade, of Sergeant Bluff, wondered how King has been spending his time over the five months and whether the congressman was being effective.
King said some House members, unasked by him to take the step, are working to see him put back on committees.
"They were appalled by the injustice of this," King said, while asserting he was misquoted by the Times.
"I don't trade in that language," King said.
He said people are simplifying his duties, which are more than committees.
"Well, do they think I am sitting there, reading a book?" King asked.
King took seven questions during the event, and topics included the record of President Donald Trump and whether the selection system for the president should move from the Electoral College to a popular vote.
Under that system, "I am afraid that (high-population states) New York and California would dictate to us," Richard Chrestensen, of Hornick, said in posing the question.
"These (presidential) candidates would be in the big cities all the time," King said. "The popular vote would be a disaster."
King added Trump found a path to win enough states and the Electoral College, even though Democrat Hillary Clinton had 3 million more votes.
"Amen," Chrestensen responded.
Dennis Moore, of Sioux City, also spoke to King about Trump, saying Democrats are not accepting that special counsel Robert Mueller's report completed earlier this spring did not find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Russian officials. Democrats have said Mueller did not exonerate Trump on the question of whether he tried to impede his investigation.
"Mr. Trump, he is tough as nails," Moore said.
"I'll second that," King said.