A rather auspicious start for the GOP’s attempt to re-brand itself and make itself appealing to minorities:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white-supremacist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.
Scalise, 49, who ascended to the House GOP’s third-ranking post this year, confirmed through an adviser that he once appeared at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO. But the adviser said the congressman didn’t know at the time about the group’s affiliation with racists and neo-Nazi activists.
“For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” Scalise told the Times-Picayune on Monday night. The organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has been called a hate group by several civil rights organizations.
The news could complicate Republican efforts to project the sense of a fresh start for a resurgent, diversifying party as the new session of Congress opens next week. In the time since voters handed control of Congress to Republicans, top GOP leaders have been eagerly trumpeting their revamped image and management team on Capitol Hill.
I think if you’re going to a conference of an organization founded by David Duke, you are on notice that the organization is racially charged.
And from the department of Please-Don’t-Help-Me, David Duke steps in:
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), whose office has been beating back criticism about a speech he gave at a 2002 gathering hosted by a white supremacist group, received some ill-timed praise from the group’s founder Monday evening. The notorious former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke described Scalise as “a fine family man” with whom he often agrees.
I don’t think Scalise’s prospects as House Majority Whip are very good. Trent Lott was driven from the field in 2001 for something less than this.
UPDATE: Robert Costa of the Washington Post interviews Kenny Knight, a longtime Duke aide and the guy who invited Scalise to the event. And we get this:
Knight on Scalise: “Steve was someone who I exchanged ideas with on politics. We wouldn’t talk about race or the Jewish question.”
— Robert Costa (@costareports) December 30, 2014
Oh my. Anyone who uses the phrase “the Jewish question” just is not helping.