Iowa 4th District Republican Congressman Steve King this week defended the far-right Freedom Party in Austria against any hint of anti-Semitism, in spite of the party’s historical Nazi ties. And he stood by his recent activites in Austria during a recent trip to Europe sponsored by a Holocaust memorial group.
King was the subject of a recent Washington Post story saying he met with Freedom Party members during a trip sponsored by an international non-profit known as From the Depths. The group paid for King and others to travel to Europe to visit holocaust memorial sites in Poland, while King paid for a sidetrip to Austria out of his own pocket.
While in Austria, according to the Post story, King was interviewed for a website associated with the Freedom Party, which espouses a tough anti-immigrant position. In the interview, King described how white Europeans are being replaced by immigrants, and said that “Western civilization is on the decline.” But King has pushed back sharply against any suggestion that he or the Freedom Party are anti-Semites.
In his speech at the Des Moines Partnership Forum on Thursday, King described the beginning of the Freedom Party whose original leaders were Nazi officers.
“At the end of the second World War in Austria, if you were involved in government you had Nazi ties,” King said.
But King said in time, all former Nazi officers were “purged” out of the party, “except for youthful affiliation for one of them.”
That’s current Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who participated in an anti-semitic youth group as a young man. Strache has dismissed his earlier youthful activity, and vowed to crack down on any anti-semitism in Austria.
“There's no party that's stronger pushing back against anti-Semites in Austria than the Freedom Party that's there,” King said.
In the Partnership address, King made no reference to the website interview, but he defended a meeting he had with Austrian businessmen. He said only one of those present was a member of the Freedom Party, which would be typical of any group of businessmen in Austria.
In a statement to the Des Moines Register, the Post stood by its story. “We have received no request for a correction or clarification from King’s office," wrote managing editor Cameron Barr.
King has met with Strache and other far-right leaders in the past, including Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front. He endorsed the candidate for mayor of Toronto Faith Goldy, who like other far-right figures has used the term “white genocide” to refer to the increasing number of immigrants in historically white countries.
Also at the Partnership, King sharply opposed a questioner who pointed to his anti-immigration views and his stance that Western civilization is under attack. The questioner said the shooter in a recent deadly attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue shared those views.
King is opposed by Democrat J. D. Scholten in the midterm election.