Election '18

Ted Cruz Can't Bring Himself to Fully Condemn a White Supremacist in His Own Party

The far-right Texas senator is unwilling to completely distance himself from white nationalist Rep. Steve King.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

On Tuesday, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chair Steve Stivers (R-OH) took the extraordinary step of denouncing Rep. Steve King (R-IA) as a white supremacist.

One other Republican, however, is taking great pains to avoid condeming King fully: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

"It's disappointing," said Cruz vaguely, when asked about King at a campaign stop in Midland, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. "He's saying and doing things that are dividing us, that are pulling us apart. We need to be finding ways to come together. This is a very polarized time and I do think tone and rhetoric matter. The way you address issues matter."

This seems a wholly inadequate response. King, who has a long history of white nationalist rhetoric, is under fire for giving an interview to a Nazi-founded far-right party in Austria — while on a trip funded by an international Holocaust remembrance group. In the interview, King asserted that the West is being destroyed by nonwhite immigration and suggested Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros was secretly funding a coordinated effort to "replace" whites in Europe. In the wake of this racist interview, multiple companies have cut off funding to his campaign, including dairy giant Land O' Lakes, which is critical to Iowa's economy.

Cruz and King have a longstanding political alliance. In 2015, King endorsed Cruz's bid for the presidency, choosing him over Donald Trump even though the latter's immigration-centered campaign was more in line with King's brand. Cruz, who is himself an anti-immigrant hardliner, repaid King by naming him a co-chair of his campaign.

Both lawmakers are locked in high-profile re-election races this year. Cruz has had to contend with a strong, well-funded grassroots challenge by Democratic El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke. King, meanwhile, is facing his first serious Democratic challenger in years in Iowa's 4th Congressional District: J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player from Sioux City.

Recent polls have shown that both races are tightening.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.