House Majority Whip Steve Scalise came under fire Monday for speaking before a convention of white supremacist in Lousiana in 2002.
Allegations that the House’s third-ranking Republican spoke to a group backed by former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke - first reported by Lousiana website CenLamar.com, - sent Scalise’s staff scrambling Monday night.
Scalise, R-La., and his office conceded late Monday that he most likely did speak at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization – designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center - while he was a Louisiana state representative. The Washington Post reported that Scalise aides and allies said he didn’t know about the group’s views at the time because he had only one person working on his staff.
Moira Smith, Scalise’s communications director, released a statement saying that ‘Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints.’
‘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.’
Smith added that Scalise ‘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, husband, and a devoted Catholic.,’ she said in the statement.
Scalise told New Orleans’ NOLA.com Monday night that ‘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.’
Neither House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, nor House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., commented on the reports late Monday. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate, issued a statement Monday saying ‘I know Congressman Scalise to be a good man who is fair-minded and kindhearted.’
‘I’m confident he absolutely rejects racism in all its forms,’ Jindal said.