Steve King takes on critics of his ‘cantaloupes’ comment

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
Font Size:

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King stood behind his “cantaloupe” comment and criticized those like Speaker of the House and Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner who have attacked his comments, saying that they are totally within the bounds of reason as part of the immigration debate.

King drew ire from Republicans and Democrats alike for comments made last week about the so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants, in which he suggested that many of them were drug mules.

“For everyone 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,” King said in an interview with Newsmax.

Boehner sharply criticized the comments at a press conference earlier on Thursday, saying: “There is no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials” in the immigration debate.

King appeared to be speaking directly to that remark in his long and sometimes rambling speech Thursday, which touched on Jesus, Moses, the Ancient Greeks, the George Zimmerman trial and the royal baby, suggesting people were attempting to dampen his right to free speech, and likening it to ancient Greece’s rule of banishing demagogues.

“We are not going to limit freedom of speech in this country. We are not going to limit freedom of assembly. We are not going to say you can’t get together and talk about these things because we know that an open public discourse and dialogue, what emerges from that are, we believe in this reason that we have inherited from the Greeks an other civilizations, that what will emerge is the most logical rational policy,” King said.

“That’s what I’m advocating for, Mr. Speaker. I want the most logical, rational policy,” he went on.

He described the country as “full of emotionalism,” saying that some people, specifically in reaction to the Zimmerman trial, “seemed to be incapable of considering anything that didn’t concur with their conclusion that they had drawn before they saw the facts,” and suggesting that something similar was happening here.

King then proceeded to defend his “cantaloupes” comment:

I can tell you this: 80 percent to 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico. I can tell you that in Mexico, they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers. Between the ages of 11 and 18 they have arrested, and, I believe, incarcerated, and the number of convictions that actually may be the number of convictions, it’s at least this, over 800 per year over the last couple years at that ratio of those who are kids who are smuggling drugs into the United States. We pick up some on our side of the border, that adds to that number. The ones we catch. Many get away. Every night, some come across the border smuggling drugs across the border. Increasingly, the higher-value drugs — heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine in some form or another — are being strapped to the body sometimes of young girls, teenage girls. The media is replete with this. Anybody that reads the paper should know, especially those that live on the border, should know that there are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States.

“It should be appalling to a country and civilization to see that taking place,” King said.

“No nation like the United States of America can continue to grow and be a strong nation if we are going to judge people because we disagree with their agenda rather than the content of their statement,” he added.

Follow Alexis on Twitter