Ramaswamy being supported by controversial former Iowa Rep. Steve King

The candidate said they connected over opposition to carbon-capture pipelines.

December 14, 2023, 2:37 PM

Controversial former Iowa Rep. Steve King is backing Republican Vivek Ramaswamy in his home state's caucuses -- with Ramaswamy telling ABC News that shared opposition to proposed pipelines to capture carbon dioxide is what "brought us together."

King, who has been introducing Ramaswamy at some events, cited their mutual view during remarks at a town hall for Ramaswamy on Wednesday.

"I intend to caucus for a candidate that's a strong defender of our property rights and against the CO2 boondoggle," he said. "And the man that does that the best right now today is right over here -- I'd like to introduce Vivek Ramaswamy."

In Pocahontas, King told potential voters that "America needs a voice, a voice like Vivek Ramaswamy."

Ramaswamy, his campaign and King himself maintain that King's supportive remarks were not a formal endorsement, but King remains a respected figure among some Republican voters in the region he represented in the House for eight years before losing his 4th Congressional District seat to Randy Feenstra in 2020.

By then, King had become effectively shunned by the larger Republican Party after saying in a 2019 interview: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?"

He later clarified that he "reject[ed] those labels and the evil ideology they define" and called himself a "nationalist."

Still, King faced vocal rebuke from leading conservatives like Sen. Mitch McConnell and he was quickly removed from his committees, drastically reducing his influence in Congress.

Ramaswamy -- a businessman and conservative commentator with his own provocative style, including floating conspiracy theories -- told ABC News that he's not worried about whether King's support will affect the public's perception of him.

"I'm not doing that calculus. ... I'm speaking the truth on this issue. It affects my perception of the broken Republican establishment in this country and, increasingly, even in this state," he said before pivoting back to his opposition to the potential Iowa pipelines.

Ramaswamy has been a vocal critic of policies to curb climate change, which scientists believe is leading to deadlier weather events among other environmental changes.

Ramaswamy called the carbon-capture pipelines "the greatest violation of property rights. ... And it matters to Iowans here in their backyard and I'm the only candidate who's able to stand for it."

The proposed pipelines are intended to capture carbon dioxide that fuels climate change and which is produced by Iowa's widespread corn farming and ethanol industries.

But the pipelines have drawn opposition, and not just from King and Ramaswamy: Some environmental activists and land-owners in the state don't want them either, contending the pipelines will be hugely disruptive relative to other climate change solutions.

Of King, Ramaswamy told reporters that "I don't want people to tell their kids to try to judge or disassociate with somebody because they disagree with something that they might have once said. ... I prefer to get to know a person on their own terms and so far, it's only been relatively recently I've gotten to know Steve King, but I think that he is a solid person who cares about the Constitution in this country."

On Tuesday, Ramaswamy told a voter in Northwood that he didn't believe King "is a white supremacist. I don't think he's anything close to that."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.