The IRS makes people mad enough to crash airplanes into buildings. That’s what Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) essentially said back in February. Today, April 15 — the deadline for Americans to turn in their tax returns — Rep. King spoke at Tax Day Tea Party Rally, which took place in Washington, D.C., and was sponsored by FreedomWorks, a powerful corporate lobbying outfit. Needless to say, he reiterated his anti-tax sentiments. (Obviously, no one likes to pay taxes, but King wants to dismantle the entire IRS and abolish all income taxes.)
After he spoke, Victor Zapata, a reporter for Think Progress, caught up with King and asked him if he regretted the remarks he had made in February — which clearly were sympathetic toward the motive of the man (Joseph Stack) who crashed a small airplane into IRS headquarters in Austin, Texas (emphasis is in the original):
King initially tried to ignore me by walking away, but when I repeated my question [“Do you regret what you said when you justified the attack against the IRS building?”], the congressman forcefully grabbed my arm and angrily accused me of calling him a murderer. Still holding onto my arm, King got just inches from my face and told me to shut off my camera. Here’s our exchange:
TP: It is tax day and you justified the murder of American federal employees at CPAC.
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.
TP: I’m sorry — I did not say that, I did not say that.
KING: That is despicable behavior for any American on this earth to do such a thing.
TP: The camera is off –
KING: We are done.
I complied with King’s demand that my camera be turned off. However, ThinkProgress had a second camera at the event, and we captured the entire exchange on video.
Clearly, Zapata did not accuse King of murder. He asked King if he regretted publicly suggesting — to a crowd of people at a public rally — that he understands how a person could feel such anger toward the IRS that said person could deliberately cause this kind and level of damage to property and harm to human life. Basically, King was saying that the IRS, objectively, is such a malevolent force in Americans’ lives, that he could feel sympathy for why Stack would feel driven by that malevolence to kill himself and gravely injure others (in one case fatally) by crashing a plane into a large building housing the IRS, among many other commercial enterprises.
There is, in fact, no credible, plausible, justifiable connection between what the IRS does and hatred extreme enough to lead to suicide and murder via crashing a plane into a building. It’s true that there is a difference between justifying and explaining, between approving of something and simply pointing to consequences that flow out of actions. But anger at the IRS is not a rational explanation for crashing a plane into a building. It just isn’t. That is why King’s implying such an explanation was so offensive, and why Zapata’s questioning that explanation was completely reasonable and fair.
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