Land O'Lakes ends support for Iowa congressman King after furor over views

Oct 30 (Reuters) - Agricultural cooperative Land O’Lakes pulled its support on Tuesday for Republican Iowa Congressman Steve King, whose past inflammatory comments on immigration and race drew renewed scrutiny after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

King, 69, has been widely criticized for his comments and support for candidates with white supremacist affiliations, including by members of his own party. On Monday, King tweeted a photo of multiple breeds of dogs, noting “all the diversity” at his annual pheasant hunt.

He received $2,500 from the Land O’Lakes Political Action Committee this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations.

“We take our civic responsibility seriously, want our contributions to be a positive force for good and also seek to ensure that recipients of our contributions uphold our company’s values,” the Minnesota-based dairy company said in a statement. “On that basis, we have determined that our PAC will no longer support Rep. Steve King moving forward.”

King’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

King is seeking re-election in a race that appears to have tightened, though he is still favored to win. Campaign handicappers at the Cook Political Report on Tuesday moved the contest to “leans Republican” from a “likely Republican” win.

Eleven people were murdered by a gunman who stormed the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday yelling “All Jews must die” before he opened fire during Sabbath prayer services.

The man charged with the massacre, Robert Bowers, appeared in court on Monday.

Days earlier, pipe bombs were sent by a different suspect to Trump administration critics, including wealthy donor George Soros. King frequently invokes Soros’ name as a liberal villain, a reference interpreted by many Jews and others as an anti-Semitic dog-whistle.

During a recent trip to Europe, King met with a far-right party with ties to neo-Nazi groups after touring Holocaust sites, according to the Washington Post and other media outlets.

After the Pittsburgh shooting, King told the Washington Post he was not anti-Semitic. He re-tweeted a Twitter post quoting the late Pope John Paul II saying Jews are “dearly beloved brothers.”

But that did not stop calls on social media to boycott Land O’Lakes for supporting of him. The company did not respond to questions about its decision to end its financial support for King or say whether the threatened boycott was a factor.

King’s seat in Congress has generally been considered safe for a Republican. Trump won the district by 27 percentage points in the 2016 presidential race.

But as of mid-October, King had raised $740,000, less than half of the $1.7 million brought in by his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, according to the Federal Election Commission website.

At that time, King had $176,000 cash on hand to spend in the last weeks of the campaign, compared to Scholten’s $317,000, the website showed. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Susan Thomas)