House Minority Whip Steve Scalise Spoke at White Supremacist Event in ’02
House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) admitted on Monday that he addressed a gathering of a white supremacist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, but denied any knowledge of the group’s neo-Nazi activities.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Scalise, who is now the third-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, spoke via video at a 2002 convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO).
EURO has declared that “Jews are the enemy of the white race” and praised Adolf Hitler for creating a “workers paradise” in Germany, which it calls a “multi-racial cesspool” today.
First reported by the blog CenLamar, the conference took place in a Best Western hotel in Metarie, outside New Orleans. Promotional materials for the event clearly stated that EURO national president David Duke would speak to attendees via teleconference.
Scalise, who was a 36-year-old Louisiana state representative at the time, first told the Times-Picayune that he did not recall speaking at the event, but later said he remembered, but had no involvement with the racist group.
“I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” he said. “When someone called and asked me to speak, I would go. If I knew today what they were about, I wouldn’t go.”
In addition to being a former KKK grand wizard, or leader, Duke was also a former Louisiana state representative who twice ran for president, as well as for state and US Congress and governor. Critics say it is almost inconceivable that Scalise, who once served in the same state House district that Duke had previously represented, would not be aware of the racial views of the event’s organizers.
“It’s hard to believe, given David Duke’s reputation in Louisiana, that somebody in politics in Louisiana wasn’t aware of Duke’s associations with the group and what they stand for,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), told the Washington Post. “If that’s the case and he agreed to join them for their event, then I think it’s a real test for Speaker Boehner as to whether congressman Scalise should remain in Republican leadership.”
Like Scalise, Duke, who was headlining a white nationalist rally in Russia, addressed the Louisiana gathering by video. Scalise said he would never attend any event with Duke.
“[Duke] was a state representative before me. Everyone knew who he was. I would not go to any group that he was a part of,” he told the Times-Picayune.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) led Republican congressmen in defending Scalise amid the growing political firestorm over the incident.
“Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners,” King told the Post. “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, it’s the sick. Given that piece of Scripture, and understanding that Scalise probably wasn’t staffed thoroughly, I could understand how something like this happened. But I know his heart, I’ve painted houses with him post-Katrina, and I know he is a good man.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also a Republican, also praised Scalise.
“I know Congressman Scalise to be a good man who is fair-minded and kindhearted,” Jindal said in a statement on Monday. “I’m confident he absolutely rejects racism in all its forms.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who is black, expressed his support for Scalise.
“I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” Richmond told the Times-Picayune. “Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character.”
“I am not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family,” Richmond added.
Some racists expressed their dismay that the story is even in the news. Don Black, a former KKK leader and founder of the leading white supremacist website Stormfront.org, blasted what he called the “absolute hypocrisy of the anti-White establishment.”
“Politicians grovel before African-American, Latino and Jewish groups, which openly promote their racial interests,” Black complained to the Daily Beast, “but they are conditioned to run like scared rabbits at the very idea European-Americans have rights.”