A CNN panel on Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his latest racist remarks broke down when a black Democrat called out two conservative guests who made excuses for the Republican lawmaker.
Democratic strategist Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina legislator, condemned King for tweeting out approval of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders by saying civilization cannot be restored with “somebody else’s babies.”
“I think Steve King was racist a year ago, he’s racist today and he’ll be racist tomorrow,” Sellers said. “Somebody else’s baby? Those are black and brown babies — I mean, let’s just cut through the BS that he spewed. That language is very dangerous.”
Sellers explained that a young person in King’s district could be reading hateful statements on the comments board at Breitbart News or the Council of Conservative Citizens, and King’s statement could legitimize those views.
“That boy could grow up to be the next Dylann Roof,” Sellers said. “So I have no tolerance for his bigotry, I have no tolerance for his racism. The Republican Party has a problem, and that man’s name is Steve King.”
Jack Kingston, a former Republican congressman from Georgia and a Donald Trump supporter, tried to defend King’s statements.
“When you bring another culture into your culture, what you want to do is assimilate it, you want to mainstream them,” Kingston said. “You want these new immigrants, wherever they come from, to buy into the American dream and share in the great opportunities that we have. I think, in terms of his comments on a homogeneous society, what he was talking about is interracial relations — marrying each other so that our great-grandchildren don’t see people and see Japanese-American or Italian-American or African-American, just simply they see Americans.”
CNN anchor Don Lemon interrupted and rejected Kingston’s premise, pointing to two of his other guests, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Andre Bayer, the former GOP lieutenant governor and legislator from South Carolina.
“I hate this whole idea of being colorblind, because you see what people’s colors are,” Lemon said. “I don’t mean you should be discriminatory, but I want to see that Maria is a proud Latina, and she’s a beautiful Latina woman, and that Andre is a handsome white man — there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean I’m going to discriminate against them.”
Bauer also refused to condemn King’s comments, saying the lawmaker’s constituents could reject them by voting him out of office next year — but Sellers broke in.
“That’s absurd,” Sellers said. “I mean, the fact that we’re having this discussion and neither Republican on here want to actually have the courage — I like both of them, but neither one of them want to have the courage to call out bigotry, xenophobia and racism, like that’s a casual part of conversation. That’s not what it is.”
Kingston argued that Republicans, in general, and Trump supporters, in particular, were the real victims.
“As a Trump supporter, I have been called a bigot, a homophobe, a racist and everything else under the sun for the last six months, to the extent that the left has overplayed the card, the race card,” Kingston said.
Lemon agreed with Sellers, and called out conservatives for refusing to speak out against racist rhetoric.
“Every single time an issue comes up similar to this or something just absurd that Trump or one of his supporters says, you defend it,” Lemon said. “You never say that they’re wrong or, rarely if ever, you never call it out for what it is. Yes, I do think that people sometimes overplay the race card, but in this particular instance it is glaringly obvious if he is not racist himself, he said something that is racially insensitive.”
Kingston again rose to King’s defense, saying the lawmaker had told him the controversial statement was garbled as a result of Twitter’s 140-character limit, but Sellers again dismissed his arguments as absurd.
“A year ago this was the same person who said he was trying to figure out what subgroups, outside of white, actually contributed to civilization,” Sellers said, referring to King. “I don’t want you to be a superhero, I don’t want Andre Bauer to be a superhero and go out and save and adopt babies — but I do want you to have the courage to stand up and fight racism and hate and xenophobia. This is absurd. I’m tired of this.”