There was a media firestorm when Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) called President Trump a “motherfucker.” There wasn’t one when Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) asked why it was offensive to be a white supremacist.
This according to a Media Matters analysis published Friday that showed cable news spent five times as much airtime talking about Tlaib swearing than King’s opining for an age where being a white supremacist was socially acceptable.
Fox News dedicated nearly an hour to Tlaib, and less than a minute to King. And Fox framed their coverage of King as his rebuttal against the quotes ran in the New York Times. MSNBC and CNN were also skewed in favor of covering Tlaib’s swearing, though to less extremes.
“And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look, you won. Bullies don’t win.’,” Tlaib said. “And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t. Because we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker’.”
And in the current political climate, there’s a lot to swear about. Still, her remarks were met with incredulity. President Trump — who calls poor countries “shitholes” and brags about committing sexual assault by saying he can “grab [women] by the pussy” — said Tlaib “dishonored” herself and her family.
Media Matters found that Democrats appearing on cable news were regularly asked to make comments on Tlaib’s remarks, but for King? The same sense of urgency simply wasn’t present. And his remarks were far more distant from the norm of political discourse.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” he asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
And make no mistake, King has repeatedly demonstrated he’s a white supremacist through his actions. From his close ties to fascist white nationalist groups in Europe to being for the Wall before it was cool, King hasn’t shied away from racism as a form of politics. Arguably, racism has been part of his success.
Though there have been some denouncements of King’s remarks from his conservative colleagues, King doesn’t expect to see any consequences for his remarks. When asked if he was concerned about losing committee appointments or facing a primary challenge, King was dismissive.
He said he’s never faced those consequences before, and that this situation is nothing new.
The lack of media attention on his remarks as compared to Tlaib’s shows the complicity of cable news in protecting King from those consequences.
“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” wrote Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), the Senate’s only black Republican. “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said.”
But on the white supremacy of Steve King, the cable networks are almost totally silent. They’d rather talk about how a Democrat said “motherfucker” than a Republican who laments the culture that disapproves of white nationalism.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.