Rep. Steve Scalise, now the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, has admitted that he spoke at a white supremacist conference in 2002 put on by David Duke and his group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). But of course, he had no idea who he was speaking to:
The 48-year-old Scalise, who ascended to the House GOP’s third-ranking post earlier this year, confirmed through an adviser that he once appeared at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization.
That organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center…
“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Bagley said. “In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families.”
She added, “He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”
Scalise’s political circle worked furiously late Monday to quell the storm, with his confidants e-mailing reporters and House members, assuring them that Scalise did not know the implications of his actions in 2002, and described him as a disorganized and ill-prepared young politician who didn’t pay close attention to invitations.
I’d have an easier time believing that if he wasn’t from Louisiana, home to David Duke. And if he had spoken out during or after the conference after he undoubtedly would have seen and heard all manner of white supremacist statements. This isn’t just some mainstream conservative group, these are genuine neo-Nazis and KKK types. It’s virtually inconceivable that one could attend that conference, even for a short time, without very quickly figuring out what was going on from the literature on tables, the buttons and stickers being sold and worn and so forth.Indeed, that claim was too much even for right wing blogger Erick Erickson:
By 2002, everybody knew Duke was still the man he had claimed not to be. EVERYBODY.
How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?
Well, it’s worked so many times before. And here’s the last thing that Scalise needed as he tries to distance himself from all of this: A David Duke endorsement.
Duke’s 1991 campaign had already made the former Ku Klux Klan leader a pariah in the rest of the country. He ultimately lost the gubernatorial race to Edwards, but many observers noted that he won a majority of the state’s white voters. Duke claimed Monday that within Louisiana, he was still well respected. As late as 2000, he pointed out, he sat on his local district’s Republican Party executive committee.
At the time, Duke had spent two years abroad after federal agents raided his home as part of an investigation into mail fraud and tax charges. He spoke to the 2002 conference via a teleconference link from Russia, so he is not sure whether Scalise would have heard his speech, which referenced his conspiracy theory about how “Israeli treachery” was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
“Even Republicans go to NAACP meetings, even though they may have disagreements with that group,” said Duke. He called Scalise “a good person,” with whom he agrees on many issues.
Well that oughta help.