December 31, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) - The new Republican Whip in Congress, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is drawing scrutiny amid revelations that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002 that was founded by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Scalise has admitted speaking at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, but claims he wasn’t aware of its racist views despite the fact that it has been listed as a hate group by civil rights organizations. He has said he spoke to the group while building support for legislation and that he now considers it a mistakes that he regrets. “I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold,” he claims.
The group’s website, WhiteCivilRights.com, has been taken down off the internet. However a search of the internet archives, or Wayback Machine site, by East County Magazine found many copies of the website from 2002, the year Scalise spoke.
The “about us” page included a letter from David Duke. The homepage included various press releases and statements that made clear the group espoused racist and anti-semitic views. It includes statements by Duke supporting eugenics (a concept embraced by the Nazis to selectively breed a master race), blaming Jews for the 9/11 attacks and calling for the repeal of hate crimes laws.
Duke has claimed he didn’t know Scalise, however a Roll Call Report from 1999 suggests Scalise knew Duke well, CNN reports. Both men were considered potential contenders in a House special election and Scalise claimed he was the more electable and seemed to be appealing to pontetial Duke voters—without disavowing racist beliefs of Duke.
Scalise stated back then, “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can't get elected, and that's the first and most important thing."
House Speaker John Boehner says he continues to have “full confidence” in Scalise, the third-ranked House Republican, and believes he should keep his leadership position despite revelations that he spoke to a white supremacist group 12 years ago. Boehner insists Scalise is a man of “high integrity and good character.”
Criticism of Scalise has come from both sides of the aisle.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press secretary Josh Schwerin, in a blistering stastement, observed that Scalise “chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally.” He denounced the Republican leadership in the House for its silence, adding that the Republican leadership “has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, suggests the GOP’s backing of Scalise reflects a troubling undercurrent of racism in the Grand Old Party. He observes, “Just this year, House Republicans have refused to restore the Voting Rights Act or pass comprehensive immigration reform…”
But Louisana’s only Democratic member of Congress, Cedric Richmond, an African-American, says he has seen Scalise work for the benefit of black people and white people and doesn’t believe he is a racist.
Schwerin said the incident made it "clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups."
Erick Erickson, a conservative RedState blogger has criticized Scalise and suggested it’s not plausible that he wasn’t fully aware of the group’s racist views when he agreed to speak. “"How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?"
John Weaver, a political consultant who advised the presidential campaigns of Republican Senator John McCain, says he believes that Scalise “cannot serve in leadership in our party as we’re in the process of trying to show the American people we can handle the burden of governing, especially in a country so divided across all demographic lines.”
The House Leadership continues to stand behind Scalise, but has distanced itself from another disgraced member, Michael Grimm of New York, who pled guilty last week to federal tax evasion charges.