CHEROKEE, Iowa – Referencing the recent Easter season, Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King said Tuesday the criticism he's faced from his "accusers" in the U.S. House has given him “better insight into what (Christ) went through for us."
"For all that I've been through -- and it seems even strange for me to say it -- but I am at a certain peace, and it is because of a lot of prayers for me," King told about 30 people at a town hall meeting in Cherokee.
“And, when I have to step down to the floor of the House of Representatives, and look up at those 400-and-some accusers, you know we just passed through Easter and Christ's passion, and I have better insight into what He went through for us partly because of that experience."
The story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion is central to Christianity. The final period in Jesus' life, starting with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his crucifixion and death on Good Friday is commonly referred to as Christ's passion.
King’s comments Tuesday came in response to a question from The Rev. Pinky Person of Cherokee. Person cited how Christian principles can boost the nation toward healing and solving problems, adding, "My concern is how Christianity is really being persecuted. It is starting right here in the United States."
King, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, began his response with how he hires his staff, saying, "We have solid, faithful people at every level."
He followed with his remarks on accusers and his insight into what Christ went through.
King, a nine-term incumbent, has long won support from evangelical Christians, a key voting demographic in the 4th District, the most conservative of the state’s congressional districts.
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Last fall, the outspoken congressman survived the closest election race of his career in Congress after coming under fire for his support for some international politicians and groups with ties to white nationalism.
In January, House leaders stripped King of all his committee assignments for the next two years, following a national uproar over King's quotes 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?"
The full House also voted, 421-1 to rebuke King for his remarks, a measure the Iowa congressman supported.
The controversy sparked numerous calls for King’s resignation, and The Journal and at least three other daily newspapers circulating in the district published editorials calling for him to step down.
At Tuesday’s town hall, the first audience member to pose a question, Mike Bunt, of Cleghorn, asked King to resign, so district residents could have a representative with committee assignments.
King rebuffed the request, as he again insisted the Times story was inaccurate.
"The New York Times misquoted me...I cannot let that stand," he told the audience.
At other town halls since the controversy surfaced, King has spoken out against Republican leaders for not standing behind him. At a February meeting in Rock Rapids, Iowa, King also invoked a religious theme as he urged the crowd to pray for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to restore his committee assignments.
At Tuesday's meeting at the Cherokee campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College, King responded to nine questions, covering the topics of immigration law enforcement, health care and gun rights.
On Thursday, King will reach the one-third mark towards his goal of holding town hall meetings in all 39 counties of the 4th District this year. The 13th meeting will be held at 3 p.m. at the Jefferson Community Golf Course in the Greene County seat.
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