Congressman Steve Scalise is Louisiana’s first representative in senior congressional leadership since Bob Livingston in 1998. Unfortunately, it looks like Scalise may be following a little too close in his predecessor’s footsteps. Livingston resigned less than a month after his election to leadership. Now calls are resonating for Scalise to step down from his recently bestowed role as Majority Whip after the politician admitted addressing a white supremacist conference.
Blogger Lamar White, Jr. of CenLamar first reported that Scalise may have addressed European-American Unity and Rights (EURO) a white supremacist group led by David Duke on Sunday (12.28). Scalise’s office scrambled to react, first offering a “maybe” and noting Scalise addressed many groups as a young politician in the hopes of being heard.
By Tuesday (12.30), Scalise confirmed that he did speak at the EURO conference.
“Twelve years ago, I spoke to many different Louisiana groups as a state representative, trying to build support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes,” Scalise said in a statement. “One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn. It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold. I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain. As a Catholic, these groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my own personal faith, and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry. Those who know me best know I have always been passionate about helping, serving, and fighting for every family that I represent. And I will continue to do so.”
On the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was quick condemn Scalise. She released a statement reading, “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.”
Not surprisingly, Pelosi’s Republican counterpart, House Majority Leader, John Boehner disagreed. He issued his own statement. "More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate. Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our Whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans," he said.
Additionally, House GOP number two, Kevin McCarthy released a statement in support of the Whip, and the Southern Law and Poverty Center weighed in calling for Scalise’s resignation.
Beltway insiders say that Scalise has been quietly checking the temperature of support within his own party. Despite the early PR fumbles, he is not expected to take more action over the next few days.