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UPDATE: Mitt Romney appeared with Steve King today and only had praise for the Representative who compares immigrants to dogs.  Romney said in Orange City, Iowa today: "I'm looking here at Steve King, he needs to be your Congressman again.  I want him as my partner in Washington."

What is it with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) comparing immigrants to animals?  During an Iowa town hall meeting in May, he compared immigrants to bird dogs: “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” he said.

Today we learned--via Twitter and our colleague Matt Hildreth--that last night, Steve King only doubled down on his comments during his first debate since being elected to Congress ten years ago.  After his opponent, Christie Vilsack, called him an "embarrassment to the people of Iowa" for comparing "immigrants as animals," King said he meant that statement as a compliment:

Vilsack: And frankly, I’d like to say to Congressman King that all that talk – some of it is actually offensive to people in Iowa, and frankly, he’s been a bully and he’s an embarrassment to the people of Iowa when he talks about immigrants as animals. And if my mother were here, she’d say to Congressman King: Show some common decency.

King: This American vigor that we have that comes from legal immigrants who came to this country with a dream. We’ve got the cream of the crop of every donor civilization on the planet.  And people that can take a compliment and turn it into an insult are not going to be constructive working across the aisle. But that’s what that was – was a compliment, and everyone who was there who heard that knows that...

Really? Steve King likes immigrants because they remind him of the animals that he owns and works – and that’s a compliment?  As Think Progress put it:
But instead of apologizing, or even explaining how he simply misspoke, King told the audience that the comment was really meant as a compliment, and that anyone who interpreted it as an insult — namely, everyone — was simply motivated by partisanship and incapable of cooperation:
Also, what about the part where he implied that immigrants are like lazy, sleeping dogs over in the corner?
 “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”
Or when he gave a floor speech about the border fence and compared immigrants to cattle?
 "I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top.

We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time."

Were those compliments too?  Listen to the audio from last night's debate:

Vilsack: …My view of this job is very local. I think Congressman King’s view of the job is quite a bit different than the way I see the job. I think he sees the job as a way to basically promote himself, and a way to be on TV – and talk to people, and promote an ideology that really has very little to do with the economic opportunities that we need to be building in small towns. So, you know, he’s on television a lot, and he talks a lot, but I hear a lot of talk and no action. And frankly, I’d like to say to Congressman King that all that talk – some of it is actually offensive to people in Iowa, and frankly, he’s been a bully and he’s an embarrassment to the people of Iowa when he talks about immigrants as animals. And if my mother were here, she’d say to Congressman King: Show some common decency.

Moderator: So Congressman King, I’ll let you respond to that, but also, really, what makes you stay in the office? Why run again?

Rep. Steve King: Well, you know, first I would say – my mother would say show some common decency at this point too. And what makes me stay in office is that I’m driven to protect America from the hardcore movement of the left that’s undermining the American dream.  The pillars of American exceptionalism are under assault from the hardcore left. Everything that you can name in the Bill of Rights that is a pillar – Freedom of Speech, Religion, and the Press, Assembly, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms – and all of that – and Property Rights – are under assault from the Left. Free enterprise as well. This American vigor that we have that comes from legal immigrants who came to this country with a dream. We’ve got the cream of the crop of every donor civilization on the planet.  And people that can take a compliment and turn it into an insult are not going to be constructive working across the aisle. But that’s what that was – was a compliment, and everyone who was there who heard that knows that...

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