U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Iowa congressman Steve King denies at least four journalists access to election party

Incident Details

November 6, 2018

Iowa congressman Steve King banned several media outlets from covering his election night party on Nov. 6, 2018, refusing to allow at least four reporters to attend—Adam Rubenstein from The Weekly Standard, Tom Cullen from the Storm Lake Times, Christopher Mathias from HuffPost, and Tony Leys from the Des Moines Register.

On Nov. 5, the Des Moines Register — the largest newspaper in Iowa — emailed the King campaign to request press credentials. The campaign refused.

“We are not granting credentials to the Des Moines Register or any other leftist propaganda media outlet with no concern for reporting the truth,” the congressman’s son Jeff wrote in an email to the Register.

In a statement, Register executive editor Carol Hunter condemned the denial of access.

“The Des Moines Register will continue doing everything in its power to cover Rep. King fairly,” she said. “This decision is unfortunate because it not only shuts out the Des Moines Register reporter, but also the people of Iowa.”

Other reporters, like Chris Mathias of HuffPost, did not receive a response to an email request for press credentials. On the night of the election, Mathias went to King’s party to cover it.

“When Jeff King spotted me, he told me to leave," he told Freedom of the Press Foundation. "When I asked why, he told me to check my email, and just minutes before I had just received an email saying that I wasn’t allowed in and that I should refer to the statement given to the Des Moines register about not letting leftist propaganda outlets in."

The reporters banned from covering the election night party had a history of reporting critically on King’s campaign. Mathias has written numerous pieces about King’s nationalist and racist messaging during his campaign, and has argued that King is a white supremacist.

The Weekly Standard's Rubenstein has written about instances in which King has made apparently derogatory comments about Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

Rubenstein later reported that Jeff King had called the editor in chief at The Weekly Standard and demanded the piece be pulled. After the Standard went ahead and published it, Jeff King — who had previously told Rubenstein that he could cover the election-night event — pulled Rubenstein's press credentials.

Rubenstein wrote in a Nov. 13 editorial for the New York Times that it was his critical reporting that got him banned from the party.

“Mr. King will insist that his opposition to the press is political — as in, the press is all left-wing propaganda,” he wrote. “In fact, it’s part of his calculated assault on truth and the ability to determine it. His idea of how the press is supposed to function would be right at home in the Gaza Strip, Iran or Turkey. Favorable coverage gets you open access. Dare to criticize and you are denied.”

HuffPost's Mathias is concerned about the precedent of retaliatory denial of access that King is setting for other representatives. 

“People like Steve King are picking up on Trump’s messaging about the press being the enemy of the people, and King has decided to part in it," he said. "It’s a worrying trend if more representatives start to embrace the fake news smear."

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].