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  • Ty Rushing
  • Mon March 27 2017
  • Posted Mar 27, 2017

Jon Zalon is an avid cyclist who has participated in large-scale bike rides up and down the West Coast. He even owns a business that provides bicycle tours of East Bay wineries.

Despite his enthusiasm for cycling, there's one event he still hasn’t crossed off his bucket list: The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, which he called the “granddaddy of them all.”

Zalon, a resident of Oakland, Calif. — one of the most diverse cities in America — was strongly considering traveling to Iowa for this summer's ride across the Hawkeye state, but ruled it out shortly after hearing about U.S. Rep. Steve King's most recent inflammatory comments.

King, an outspoken Republican who represents Iowa’s 4th district, which takes in Orange City, the starting point for the 2017 RAGBRAI, set off a major controversy earlier this month when he tweeted that America "can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

The tweet defended the views of a far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, including a cartoon depicting Wilders plugging a hole in a wall that reads “Western civilization.”

Many Americans, like Zalon, interpreted King’s comments as racist and thought they conveyed a tone of white nationalism in them, a view that was backed up when David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, endorsed King’s tweet.

“I’m very shocked at what he said,” Zalon said. “I don’t want to hold it against the entire state, but I’ve got to put my foot down and use whatever economic muscle I have at my disposal.”

King denied that his comments were about race, but refused to apologize, saying it was consistent with his past warnings that Western civilization is in endanger of extinction due to low birth rates and increased immigration from other cultures.

Since his March 12 tweet, the Iowa Tourism Office has been swamped with complaints and news of people canceling their vacation plans in Iowa, which generates an estimated $8 billion in tourism activity annually.

As of Thursday, about 500 people had posted comments on the office's Facebook page and Twitter account, another 50 had left voicemails and hundreds more had sent emails, vowing to avoid Iowa due to King’s remarks, said Shawna Lode, office manager of the Iowa Tourism Office.


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