Congressman's Drink of Water Becomes a Flashpoint

Steve King says claims of immigrants drinking out of toilets are overblown, but AOC fires back
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2019 11:05 AM CDT
Congressman's Drink of Water Becomes a Flashpoint
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens to a question during a news conference on Aug. 23, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Seldom has a drink of water caused such a political controversy. But Congressman Steve King's gulp at an immigration detention facility has reignited a debate about conditions on the US-Mexico border and drawn Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into the fray. The details about what's going on:

  • The start of it: The controversy stems from AOC's visit with other lawmakers to Border Patrol facilities earlier this summer. Afterward, the congresswoman said detainees in overcrowded cells had to drink toilet water.
  • King pushes back: The Iowa Republican says the toilet claims are overblown. He shared a video of himself drinking from a fountain attached to a toilet in a cell. "I smacked my lips," he told constituents at a town hall, per NBC News.

  • The devices: Some cells do indeed have sinks attached to toilets, and those sinks have a water fountain component, explains the Washington Post. King maintains that this is what the migrant detainees were complaining about. "I think there was a little language barrier there and so that's how come we got that misinformation," he said at the town hall.
  • AOC fires back: King has it wrong, she says. Migrants told her they had to drink from toilet bowls, an allegation she raised on Twitter in July and again during a House hearing. This happened when the sinks weren't working, she says. On Wednesday, in response to King's video, she tweeted: "There is a genre of videos where GOP House members - who clearly didn't read sworn testimony that detention sinks were broken- filming themselves drinking out of toilet sinks." She adds: "They're so anti-immigrant they risk pink eye to show off that they didn't do the reading."
  • Others: AOC is correct that other GOP House members shared videos similar to King's. Here's one from Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia taking a drink. Like King, he accuses AOC of misleading people about the toilet claims. But neither he nor King addresses the claims about broken sinks. Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who visited with AOC, says she was unable to turn on the faucets of one of the sinks. As the Post notes, advocates say that even if the sinks are working, it's not ideal to have people drink over an open toilet.
(King, of course, is no stranger to controversy.)

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