Congressman Steve King (R-IA) grabbed Think Progress' Victor Zapanta Thursday at a tax day tea party rally and argued with the cameraman, after being asked to defend comments he made in February that seemed to justify a Texas man's suicide attack on the IRS.
Soon after Joe Stack, an angry software programmer, flew a plane into IRS offices in Austin, King called the Internal Revenue Service "unnecessary" and said that "it will be a happy day for all Americans" when the agency is abolished. Stack's suicide attack killed 68-year-old IRS employee Vernon Hunter.
The video, posted by Think Progress, shows Zapanta asking King to defend comments that "justified the murder of American federal employees." King, who appears to have misunderstood or ignored the basis of the question, responds by grabbing the Zapanta's arm and getting in the cameraman's face:
King: Are you accusing me of that? Are you accusing me of that? Turn that camera off. I'm not going to have those allegations. You accuse me of murder. That is despicable behavior.
Below is a transcript of King's comments to Think Progress after the suicide attack:
TP: Do you think this attack, this terrorist attack, was motivated at all by a lot of the anti-tax rhetoric that's popular in America right now?
KING: I think if we'd abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn't have a target for his airplane. And I'm still for abolishing the IRS, I've been for it for thirty years and I'm for a national sales tax. [...] It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America.
TP: So some of his grievances were legitimate?
KING: I don't know if his grievances were legitimate, I've read part of the material. I can tell you I've been audited by the IRS and I've had the sense of 'why is the IRS in my kitchen.' Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back. ... It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) called King's IRS statements "appalling" during a speech on the House floor in February.
According to the Iowa Independent, King's office released this statement regarding his comments:
As a founder of a small business who has endured I.R.S. audits, I understand the deep frustration with the I.R.S. In the early days, my company could not run without me on the job. I once had to shut it down just to be in the room with the I.R.S. I did not get a fair shake, but I channeled my frustration the American way and ran for office. Americans looking for an outlet for their frustration should join me in calling on Congress to pass a national sales tax and abolish the current federal tax code and the I.R.S.
In his suicide note, Stack cited a tax law that made it difficult for software engineers to work as self-employed individuals, according to The New York Times. The widow of the IRS employee killed in Stacks' attack is now suing the suicide attacker's wife.