Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) suggested House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) can make amends for his speech to a white supremacist group 12 years ago by sponsoring initiatives such as immigration reform today.
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.
“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 Times-Picayune, adding “if I knew today what they were about, I wouldn’t go. My staff, they are able to vet organizations.”
Jackson Lee told MSNBC today that the revelation was “enormously disappointing.”
“This is not 50 years ago, it was 12 years ago. And every member knows what they do stand for. And any organization that was affiliated at that time with David Duke is obviously the Klu Klux Klan. And we know what the Klu Klux Klan stands for — for hate,” the congresswoman said. “For the killing of Jews and Catholics and African-Americans and anyone that they disagree with, even today. So, I’m enormously disappointed.”
“And I, frankly, believe it is important for further statements to come from the whip. He is the majority whip. He is the whip of all of the nation, even as he is leadership in the United States Congress. Why doesn’t he take the leadership of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, working in a bipartisan manner, or moving forward on criminal justice reform, or even working to pass immigration reform?” she asked.
“I think it’s got to be more than words. It’s got to be action. And I think the Republican leadership — the Republicans in the House and the Senate, have a huge mountain to climb. Because it was not in the Dark Ages that he made this speech. It was just a few years ago, when everybody has known and lived through the damaging actions of the Klu Klux Klan.”
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told MSNBC that Scalise should remain in House leadership — but “if more facts do come out, Steve Scalise will have to explain them.”
“I’ve never heard any hint at all of any racism, bias, or bigotry. And my understanding is that group is also anti-Catholic. Steve is Catholic himself; he’s a very strong practicing Catholic. So if he says it was a mistake and it was inadvertent and he didn’t realize the full content of what they stood for, at this stage, I say we have to believe him because there’s no other evidence out there. Usually when there is something to it, you have other incidents come forward,” King said.
“…There’s always rumors about this person, that person in Congress. I’ve never heard anything bad about Steve Scalise until the story broke the other day. And he’s giving us his explanation, so I believe we owe him the benefit of the doubt on this unless more comes out.”