Rep. Steve King has civil war on his mind.
The Iowa Republican broached the subject in a Saturday evening Facebook post — a bizarre meme of two fighting figures, one red and one blue, each an amalgamation of states based on their political leanings.
“Folks keep talking about another civil war,” the meme read. “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.”
King was openly pondering violent, armed conflict, apparently joking about Republican-leaning states fighting their Democratic-leaning neighbors in a second American civil war.
But King, an Iowa native, may have been confused about which side he was on. There, forming the blue warrior’s bicep, was his home state, delivering a cartographic uppercut to the jaw of its red opponent.
King deleted the post, which he shared on an official campaign page, Monday. His office did not respond to questions about the picture or his reasons for posting and removing it.
Observers pilloried him for the post, which many saw as further provocation in a divisive political climate that has already experienced civil war rhetoric. Many called for King’s expulsion from Congress, a punishment that would end his nine-term run in office.
“This is treason,” said Richard Painter, the Bush administration ethics chief, on Twitter. “Steve King should be expelled from the House immediately.”
The Democratic Party in Clay County, Iowa, which is located in King’s district in the northwestern area of the state, told its representative, “Iowa would be better off if you just resigned.”
Some criticized King’s timing, as he posted the meme the day after a white supremacist killed 50 people in New Zealand mosques. Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, tweeted that King had ignored the “gun violence in America and across the world caused by division and fear of one another” when he posted the image.
Others accused King of promoting transphobic language, and at least one scholar attempted a history lesson.
“I grew up in SC where the #CivilWar began, a war that eventually freed 4 million slaves, a war that left 620,000 soldiers dead-including 40,000 Black soldiers,” wrote Cornell Brooks, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and former president of the NAACP. “Don’t use #transphobia to legitimate #WhiteSupremacy, or bathrooms to spit on graves.”
Over his nearly two decades as a national political figure, King has furnished a long history of racist remarks and comments widely viewed as anti-Semitic, white nationalist, or insulting to immigrants and to women seeking abortions.
He has also made at least two other nods to civil war.
In 2018, King himself said the country was on the brink of civil war. In a tweet, he said, “America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry. After that comes Ft. Sumter.”
Harper’s Ferry was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid of a federal armory, an attempt to begin an anti-slavery rebellion, that helped spark the Civil War. The attack on Ft. Sumter was considered the start of the war.
King has even kept a reminder of the war placed prominently on his desk — a small Confederate flag, peeking out from a display that also sported a Gadsden flag.
Iowa was part of the Union.
Reis Thebault writes for the Washington Post.