Steve King (R-IA) knows that people think he’s a racist. So he is fighting that perception with the time-honored tactic of racists everywhere. He will sit next to a black person in public and pretend it proves something.
Tuesday morning, King announced on his Twitter feed that he would bring as a guest to the State of the Union Lynette Hardaway, aka Diamond of Diamond & Silk, the female, conservative African-American duo that shot to fame in 2016 by being huge fans of Donald Trump. This earned the women a documentary, their own show on Fox News’s newly-launched streaming service, and guest spots on Fox whenever the network wants to counter the impression that President Trump is unpopular with African-Americans. (For the record, he is really unpopular with African-Americans, no matter how much the notoriously right-leaning Rasmussen massages its polls.)
King’s announcement is a transparent attempt to rehabilitate his public image after he told the New York Times last month that he didn’t understand when terms such as “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became “offensive.” The comments, which were just the latest in a career-long string of making outright racist statements in public, cost King his committee assignments in the House of Representatives.
Prominent Republicans also pushed King to resign his seat. This would seem to be an incredibly cynical move for a GOP that saw outright white supremacists running in and even winning Republican primaries for various elected offices just last year. A GOP which has otherwise done almost nothing to attract minority voters through policy initiatives or renunciation of the far-right white supremacist voters in its ranks who provided a great deal of support and energy to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
King rode out the calls for his resignation. Now he appears focused on proving his lack of racism by cozying up to black people. The problem for him is that anyone familiar with Diamond & Silk knows that the duo’s routine is anything but colorblind. Rather, it is an exaggerated caricature of racist stereotypes of black women that renders them into non-threatening cartoons. By going along with Tuesday night’s charade, they are providing King with exactly what he wants: cover to rehabilitate his image without forcing either him or his party to reexamine its structural prejudices.