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Iowa Faith Leaders Rebuke Rep. King After Synagogue Massacre

The largest single-year increase of anti-Semitic incidents was recorded in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. (
The largest single-year increase of anti-Semitic incidents was recorded in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. (
November 1, 2018

AMES, Iowa – In the wake of the shooting deaths of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, faith leaders are speaking out about Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, known for endorsing Nazi sympathizers and tweeting white nationalist rhetoric.

Letters have been sent to the state's newspapers signed by 60 Iowans of various religions who called on elected officials to "stand with Iowa's Jewish community, denounce King's actions and hold him accountable."

John Pleasants, president of the Ames Jewish Congregation, says King's offensive rhetoric has diminished the state's reputation.

"For some of us, he has gone too far a long time ago, but I think a lot of his supporters kind of tolerated some of the statements that he's made,” Pleasants states. “Really this time he has gone too far."

In August, King met with far-right Austrians with historical Nazi ties while on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group. That led companies including Purina, Intel and Land O' Lakes to end financial contributions to King.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also announced it will not help fund King's re-election bid. The congressman has called the attacks "fake news."

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism around the country, says the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016.

Pleasants says no one is trying to directly link King to what happened in Pittsburgh, but he believes anti-Semitic statements can indirectly contribute to hate crimes.

"It's not just the Jewish community that's gotten upset by this,” he stresses. “Our Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists – they're very saddened and concerned by the events in Pittsburgh and believe that there's some link between the two of them."

For the first time, King's hometown newspaper – the Sioux City Journal – endorsed King's Democratic challenger in next week's midterms.

King has held his seat since 2012, and won his last two reelection bids with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA