NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, gave a speech at a conference of white nationalists when he was a state lawmaker in 2002, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing his spokeswoman.
Spokeswoman Moira Bagley said Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, was not familiar with the ideology of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, when he attended the event in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, the Washington Post reported.
EURO was founded in 2000 by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who served in the Louisiana House of Representatives and ran a high-profile race for governor of the state in 1991.
Scalise attended the event to build support for his efforts to eliminate political slush funds and to oppose increased taxes on the middle class, Bagley said, according to the Post.
"He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic," she said, according to the newspaper.
Bagley did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The revelation comes as Republicans, who control the House, are preparing to cement their grip in Congress as they take charge in the Senate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies EURO as a hate group that mostly serves as "a vehicle to publicize Duke's writing and sell his books."
Scalise's appearance at the event was first reported on Sunday by Louisiana politics blogger Lamar White Jr.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Mohammad Zargham)