Labrador rips media for overplaying Rep. King’s ‘reprehensible’ remarks on immigrants

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. The White House on Wednesday condemned the Republican congressman's assertion that many immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids are actually running drugs. King had said to a conservative news website that "for every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. The White House on Wednesday condemned the Republican congressman’s assertion that many immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids are actually running drugs. King had said to a conservative news website that “for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador says reporters behaved shamefully by focusing on remarks by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that have been condemned by many Republicans, including Labrador and House Speaker John Boehner.

King’s statement that young illegal immigrants are 100 times more likely to be drug runners than valedictorians ignited a Beltway firestorm, overshadowing a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday about immigrants brought as children. King and Labrador are both members of the committee, where Republicans have introduced the KIDS Act as an alternative to to the Democrats’ DREAM Act.

Labrador called King’s remarks “irresponsible and reprehensible” but blasted the media for “fan(ning) the flames,” telling reporters, “Shame on you.”

Kings remarks were about a group of illegals commonly called “Dreamers,” who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Many lawmakers want to find a way to legalize their status. A year ago, President Obama ordered a halt to deportation of such immigrants.

But King, known for his forceful opposition to immigration reform, says the image of the Dreamers has been sugar coated.

“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in,” King said in a July 18 interview with Newsmax that went viral this week. “It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.

“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said.

Boehner condemned the remarks in statement Wednesday and began his Thursday news conference criticizing King.

“I want to be clear: There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said, calling King’s remarks ” deeply offensive and wrong” and saying they complicate the effort to pass immigration reform.

“What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party, and we all need to do our work in an open, constructive and respectful way,” Boehner said. “As I’ve said many times, we can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Labrador was drawn into the matter by a question from a reporter during Wednesday’s “Conversations with Conservatives,” a monthly news conference featuring the GOP’s most conservative lawmakers. Roll Call reporter Emma Dumain asked the panel about King’s comments and later posted a story titled, “No Easy Steve King Solution for GOP.”

Labrador replied by condemning King, but added that “what really saddens me” is that the media paid more attention to King’s offensiveness than the “beautiful” comments of Republicans who testified during Tuesday’s hearing.

Here’s my transcript of the exchange, which begins at 38:00 in video of the hour-long news conference:

Dumain: “What do you think of (King’s) comments and do you believe that they are disruptive to the process of building consensus around something?”

Labrador: “You know, I think his comments were irresponsible and reprehensible. I think what he said was out of touch with the (Republican) Conference. There’s nobody in the Conference who would say such a thing and I hope that if he thought about it he wouldn’t say such a thing again.

“But what saddens me the most is that you have three Republicans on the (Judiciary hearing) panel who were witnesses yesterday who gave beautiful testimony about why they want to do something with the kids that are here illegally. You had an entire committee, except for Steve King, that were very positive in their comments.

“And all you guys can do is fan the flames of one person making a reprehensible and irresponsible comment. So, I think, shame on you. Shame on the media for only concentrating on that aspect of it.

“Now, if you were seeing that as part of a story and you actually were highlighting the comments of every other Republican who was on that — on, you know, testifying of every Republican who was actually in the committee — then you would be actually showing the truth of what’s happening here in Congress. Which is that he is in the small, small minority, almost singular minority, of making comments like that.”

Dumain: “May I have a follow up? I think you are making a good point that it’s important to put that in context. Do you think that it’s the responsibility of members of the Conference to make statements — such as the one you just made — to say, ‘Listen, he doesn’t speak for us?’”

Labrador: “I think it is our responsibility, but I think it’s more your responsibility to show — if you’re going to talk about a hearing like yesterday — then make sure that you’re actually talking about what every Republican said in that hearing, not what one outlier said in the hearing.

“I get tired of journalism where all you do is you try to tell us — you say what one person does and one person says. I think your job is to let the American people know exactly what happened at that hearing yesterday. And what happened at that hearing, I actually thought that it was a beautiful hearing. It was a hearing where some beautiful things were said by both sides, some real truths were said about the immigration issue. Even I had to say, you know, I opposed some of the ideas of the other side. But I did them respectfully and I did it with honor. And I think that’s what your stories should be reflecting, not just one individual who says something that I just thought was completely terrible.”

Labrador’s chiding reporters captured the attention of Slate’s David Weigel, who knocked Labrador for calling out the media for “reminding people that Steve King exists.”

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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