King explains “no” vote on honoring slaves

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron, Iowa) was the only "no" vote yesterday in the House on a proposal to honor the slaves who built the U.S. Capitol.  During a phone conversation late this afternoon with Radio Iowa, King explained his vote. According to King, the slavery-related resolution was passed in a "quid pro quo" deal that will get a picture in the capitol visitor center changed to include the words "In God We Trust."  Full explanation below, in a partial transcript of our conversation. UPDATE: Click here to find an mp3 of the conversation.

"It is clearly etched in stone above the speaker's chair in the House chambers:  'In God We Trust.'  The architect of the capitol has been for years trying to eradicate any sign of faith or Christianity from the capitol itself and from the historical documents that flow from it…So this was a deal that we had to put up another monument up to slavery to even get another resolution passed…I'm out of patience with these kind of maneuverings," King said.

According to King, the picture of the speaker's chair that is currently in the capitol visitor's center is inaccurate.  "They had photoshopped that language off of the picture, so the architect of the capitol had gone in — or directed someone to go in — and photoshop and scrub the language, 'In God We Trust'…and in order to get them to agree to put the real language back in the picture so the picture was real, we had to agree to pass a resolution to put another monument up to slavery," King said.  "So it was a trade-off that we had to apparently give up something in order to get the truth back and I rejected that idea and I think there were a lot of members that would have liked to vote no with me." 

So why was King the only no vote?

"I think it's simply many of them thought, 'I don't want to die on that hill.  It's not worth fighting over,'" King replied.  "…It was a deal and I mean, I sat there and looked at that (voting) board for quite a while last night and I thought this through and I knew I was going to be the only one and I thought: 'I just can't.  I just cannot simply go along with this and let them do what they're doing to our history.' This doesn't have anything to do with slavery to speak of, really.  It has to do with them trying to amend our history, after the fact, and at some point somebody had to draw the line and no one else had the will to do it when the issue was slavery."  

King would like to see something else in the visitors center.

"I would just add that there were about 645,000 slaves that were brought to the United States and I'm with Martin Luther King, Junior on this.  His documents and his speeches — I've read most of them and I agree with almost every word," King said. "Slavery was abhorrent, but it was also a fact of life in those centuries where it existed and of the 645,000 Africans that were brought here to be put forcibly into slavery in the United States, there were over 600,000 people that gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery and I don't see the monument to that in the Congressional Visitors Center and I think it's important that we have a balanced depiction of history."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Keith Stern says

    Nice to see they’re working on the issues vital to our national well-being like jobs and health care, and not wasting it on frivolous grandstanding about the “original” words that were put on a chair, probably in the 1950s.

  2. patrick mccormick says

    Congressman King is really an embarrassment to the state of Iowa and the Republican Party. He sounds like Strom Thurmond here.

  3. Uhm, point of fact, at least half of the 600,000 casualties in the Civil War gave their lives to PRESERVE slavery, having fought for the South in that conflict. His explanation is nothing more than back-pedaling and excuse-making.

  4. Has Steve King ever been to Washington, DC? The city is filled with Civil War memorials and honorifics. Dupont, Scott, Thomas and Logan Circles, along with McPherson and Farragut Squares, to name only a few, are all named after Union generals from the Civil War and all feature memorial statutes.
    Personally, I can’t think of a single “monument to slavery” in the city.

  5. Mara Seaforest says

    That’s an amazing bit of logic, right there. Of all the compromise votes he’s had to cast in all his time in elected office, THIS is the one on which he decides to dig in his heels? On what planet did he think that wouldn’t come across as racist?

  6. This man’s constituents should let him know in writing what they think of this vote. He has chosen the wrong “hill” to “die” on.

  7. @Mr_T_in_DC While King has his numbers wrong.
    360,000 Union forces were killed in the American Civil War to 260,000 Confederate soldiers. the Union had more than twice the number of soldiers as the Confederacy.