The PJ Tatler

House GOP Whip Spoke at White Supremacist Convention in 2002

A firestorm was quickly unfolding around the House majority whip tonight as the Washington Post confirmed that the third-ranking Republican spoke at a white supremacist convention in 2002.

A blog in Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) home state uncovered the connection through postings on the neo-Nazi online forum Stormfront.

Scalise spoke at a Metairie, La., meeting of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and Louisiana politician David Duke, in May 2002.

Scalise was a state assemblyman at the time, and was elected to Congress six years later. He led the Republican Study Committee caucus of conservatives until he moved into the majority whip post after Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) primary defeat.

From the WaPo:

In a statement, Scalise’s spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group’s ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.

Other Scalise allies, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, argued that Scalise was poorly staffed during the period, when he was busy touring the state promoting his efforts to curb state spending.

“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.”

…Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (R), said in an interview Monday that Duke’s views are “awful and indefensible and wrong,” but declined to comment on Scalise’s situation.

“David Duke tried to lead the GOP in the wrong direction and he failed miserably,” said Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “He is somebody who tried to revive his career as a Ku Klux Klan leader when so few people were willing to follow that banner. The press lionized him and made it sound like he had a big following, but he did not.”

Several lawmakers in both parties contacted late Monday declined to speak publicly on the matter, saying that they wouldn’t comment until they have read more about the situation and assessed the political fallout.

The fallout was coming swiftly Monday evening, though. The White House has so far refused to comment; no reaction also from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).