Congress Steve King

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2019 file photo, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks during a town hall meeting, in Primghar, Iowa. King says he was told that victims of Hurricane Katrina only asked for help, unlike Iowans. King told his constituents Thursday that as New Orleans recovered from the 2005 storm, someone from FEMA told him that “everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?” In contrast, King said, “Iowans take care of each other.” New Orleans is mostly black. Iowa is mostly white. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) ORG XMIT: WX102

After Hurricane Katrina assaulted New Orleans, the city went out of its way to encourage members of Congress to visit and see the damage for themselves.

Katrina’s destruction was something you would have to see for yourself. A thousand photographs and a hundred hours of TV video would never do.

New Orleans made a lot of friends thanks to those visits.

But one member of Congress who never seemed to get the point was Steve King, an Iowa Republican.

King claims to have visited four times, but he must not have taken the time to speak with the natives while he was here.

Last year, when his own district was impacted by flooding, King got into hot water by suggesting that his constituents were helpful country neighbors, while the folks in New Orleans were big-city freeloaders.

“Here’s what FEMA tells me: ‘We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?’” he told a crowd in Iowa. “They’re just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other. It’s a point of pride that spreads across the country.”

King never turned up evidence that a FEMA official actually said any of that.

Katrina is behind us by 15 years now, but New Orleans got the last laugh this spring when King was thumpingly defeated by his own voters. In a Republican primary, he got a little over a third of the vote, a dismal performance for an incumbent first elected in 2002.

King was an embarrassment to a Republican Party that sometimes seems timid in condemning racially inflammatory language from its own president.

The congressman wondered in an interview with The New York Times how the term “white supremacist” had become offensive.

Republicans kicked him off congressional committees, which made it difficult for him to represent the voters of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

King will have time on his hands, so maybe he will find a few minutes to visit with Larry Craig and Dennis Hastert.

Craig, a former Idaho Republican senator, said in 2005 that flooded sections of New Orleans should be abandoned, and opined that, "Fraud is in the culture of Iraqis. I believe that is true in the state of Louisiana as well.”

Craig left Congress after being arrested in 2007 on lewd conduct charges in the men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.

Hastert, an Illinois Republican and House speaker, said of New Orleans, “It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.” After he left office, he pleaded guilty to banking violations in a hush-money case that revealed he sexually abused several high school students.

King and Craig and Hastert deserve each other, and the voters of Iowa and Idaho and Illinois deserved better.