House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seized on the scandal unfolding around Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), with her spokesman criticizing Scalise for “association” with a white supremacist organization and piling on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for not condemning the House No. 3.
Boehner just said he supports Scalise despite the incident years earlier.
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.
The congressman’s spokeswoman said he was thinly staffed at the time and didn’t vet the event properly.
Scalise followed up in a Q&A with The Times-Picayune in which he said he spoke to any group who wanted to hear about his opposition to a state tax plan.
“When you look at the kind of things they stand for, I detest these kinds of views. As a Catholic, I think some of the things they profess target people like me. At lot of their views run contradictory to the way I run my life,” Scalise told the paper, adding “if I knew today what they were about, I wouldn’t go. My staff, they are able to vet organizations.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said “Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House.”
“However, actions speak louder than whatever Steve Scalise said to that group in 2002. Just this year, House Republicans have refused to restore the Voting Rights Act or pass comprehensive immigration reform, and leading Republican members are now actively supporting in the federal courts efforts by another known extremist group, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is seeking to overturn the President’s immigration executive actions,” Hammill continued.
“Speaker Boehner’s silence on this matter is yet another example of his consistent failure to stand up to the most extreme elements of his party.”
Soon after Pelosi issued the statement, Boehner issued his own statement supporting Scalise.