The number three Republican in the Congress, Representative Steve Scalise (R-La) admitted Monday that he spoke to a racist white supremacy group in 2002 headed by KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, but he said that he had no idea it was a hate group. A Scalise spokesman added that the Congressman was a devout Catholic and “detested hate groups.”
The Scalise controversy is the second scandal involving Republicans just days before the new Congress convenes with the largest Republican majority since Herbert Hoover was president in the 1920s. Last week, Republican Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) pled guilty to a felony charge of tax evasion. He resigned Monday.
The news of the speech at Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights organization came out in a blog published by Lamar White Jr on which a woman posted that she was present at the speech where Scalise spoke about his efforts to cut government spending. The woman said Scalise made reference to graft in HUD which he said gave away money to selective groups based on race—a seeming reference to blacks.
In spite of the denials that Scalise knew nothing about the group he spoke to, new information is surfacing that raises questions about the veracity of the denials.
First of all, when David Duke ran for Congress two years before the speech, one of his opponents in the GOP primary was David Duke. Scalise did not condemn Duke during that contest but rather, he said that he embraced many of Duke’s conservative views, but he thought that he was more viable a candidate than Duke and could get elected. Duke won the primary and came within 3,700 votes of winning a seat in Congress.
Those conservative views held by Duke that Scalise might have been referring to include his call for repealing the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and returning the South to segregation. Duke was so extreme that national Republicans rebuked him, but not Scalise when he was running against him.
Secondly, it is not believable that Scalise did not know what that group stood for since that same year the group was in the news for fighting efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the Louisiana Capitol where Scalise served as a state representative. Even conservative Republican blogger Eric Erickson found the denial incredulous He wrote “How the hell do you show up at a David Duke event and not know what it is?” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said on her MSNBC program Tuesday that anyone who covered David Duke will find it hard to believe that anyone in Louisiana did not know what Duke stood for.
Also, that same weekend, the Chicago Cubs farm team, the Iowa Cubs, was booked at the same hotel as the Duke event. When they learned Duke’s group was having a workshop, they cancelled reservations and moved to another hotel.
It has also come out that Scalise was one of only six members of the Louisiana State Legislature who voted against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 2004. Ninety legislators in the deep southern state voted for it, but not Scalise. David Duke was one of the outspoken critics of the holiday.
Republican leaders in the House are watching this carefully but silently. If a transcript or video of Scalise’s remarks surfaces and indicates that he played to the racist views of the audience that day, it will be damaging to the image of the Party. Clearly, reporters and others will be carefully combing everything Scalise has said or done looking for any indications that he had racist views back then.
The Congressional Black Caucus has asked Speaker Boehner to investigate the matter. Boehner is yet to reply. Many Republicans are circling the wagon in support of Scalise. David Duke, for instance, tweeted that Scalise was “a good family man and good person.”
In any event, the Grimm conviction and the Scalise matter is not what Speaker Boehner wanted as he prepares to preside over the largest Republican majority since 1928—a year before the collapse of the Stock Market and the onslaught of the Great Depression. Stay tuned.
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