House Majority Whip ‘Likely Spoke’ At White Nationalist Gathering In 2002 UPDATE: He Did. UPDATE: He Really Didn't, But He Said He Did

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Dec 29, 2014 5:00 PM
House Majority Whip ‘Likely Spoke’ At White Nationalist Gathering In 2002 UPDATE: He Did. UPDATE: He Really Didn't, But He Said He Did

This post has been updated

Editor's Note: With more details coming to light, it seems that Scalise didn't address a group of white nationalists in 2002. He addressed a crowd in a room at the same hotel where the white nationalist conference was being held. Nevertheless, it was probably not the wisest choice to accept an invitation to speak at this location from his neighbor Kenny Knight, who was David Duke's former campaign manager. Duke is a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Scalise also apologized for addressing the group, which was also a poor decision choice.

UPDATE: Now, Politico says Scalise's staff is "unsure" if he spoke at the event. It's now a tale of two stories and publications. We'll keep you updated on how this all turns out.

UPDATE II: The Hill reports Scalise spoke at EURO based on postings from a message board at Stormfront.com.

UPDATE III: Yep, Scalise addressed the conference via Associated Press:

As Republicans struggle to attract more votes from minorities heading into the 2016 presidential election, a House GOP leader has acknowledged that he once addressed a gathering of white supremacists, though his office denies any association with the group's social views.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the chamber's third-ranking Republican, served in the Louisiana Legislature when he appeared in 2002 at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

In a written statement, Scalise aide Moira Bagley Smith confirmed that Scalise addressed the group as it gathered at a New Orleans-area hotel near the neighborhoods that both Scalise and Duke represented during separate stints as state lawmakers.

Smith said in her statement that Scalise spoke only to rally support for conservative fiscal policies in Louisiana, not to endorse the mission and views of his audience. Smith's statement came after a liberal Louisiana blogger, Lamar White Jr., first reported the 12-year-old story using online postings from members.

UPDATE IV: Newt Gingrich comes to Scalise's defense

UPDATE V: Roll Call unearthed an old 1999 interview they did with Duke. They also spoke to then-rising politicians David Vitter and Steve Scalise:

“I honestly think his 15 minutes of fame have come and gone,” said state Rep. David Vitter (R), a wealthy Metairie attorney who holds Duke’s old seat in the state House and is “seriously considering” a Congressional bid. “When he’s competed in a field with real conservatives, real Republicans, Duke has not done well at all.”

Another potential candidate, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.

“The novelty of David Duke has worn off,” said Scalise. “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.”

UPDATE VI: RedState's Erick Erickson asks a good question:

UPDATE VII: Rep. Scalise confirms he spoke at event (via WaPo):

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.

...

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.

UPDATE VIII: As reported by the Hill, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus leadership wants an investigation into the Scalise speech at EURO in 2002.

UPDATE IX: David Duke tells WaPo's Costa that he has "no personal relationship with Scalise , but was close to his top aide Kenny Knight was "friendly" with him in 2002. That's why he was invited to EURO 2008. Knight also donated money to Scalise's campaigns.  Take the former with a grain of salt though. An FEC form accompanies the donation from Knight. 

UPDATE X: Scalise said he didn't have a scheduler with access to Google.

Exit question: Will Scalise still be the House Majority Whip for 114th Congress?

::Original Post::

So, this isn’t the best news coming from the House Republican leadership. Rep. Steve Scalise “likely spoke” at a white nationalist gathering in 2002. Scalise, who’s the former chairman for the conservative House Republican Study Committee and current House Majority Whip, was a member of the Louisiana State House of Representatives at the time, touring the state “touting efforts of budget,” according to Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, who was formerly with National Review.

Costa noted that the House GOP leadership is aware of the situation, and that Scalise aides are looking into the details of his “run-of-the-mill appearance" at the event.  Here's what Scalise's spokesperson Moira Bagley had to say about the matter (via WaPo):

In a statement, Scalise’s spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group’s ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.

Other Scalise allies, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, argued that Scalise was poorly staffed during the period, when he was busy touring the state promoting his efforts to curb state spending.

“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Bagley said. “In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families.”

She added, “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.”

The event, European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), was hosted by David Duke, also–incredulously–a former member of the Louisiana State House and a former leader within the Ku Klux Klan. In 2006, Duke attended Iran’s International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust , where he said gas chambers were not used to kill Jews. The conference was attended by many Holocaust deniers from around the world.

“The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder,” said Duke.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled some information about Duke and others who used to write for the website whitecivilrights.com, who’s domain name has since expired:

"So, the unvarnished truth is that we suffered the terror of September 11 because of our support of the criminal policies of Israel. We have let our country be controlled by a foreign lobby that has worked against the best interests of the American people. Israel has time and again proven it is not really our friend. It has conducted covert terrorist activities against America such as the Lavon affair in Egypt. It has deliberately attacked the USS Liberty with unmarked fighters and torpedo boats causing 174 American casualties in an attempt to blame Egypt and garner American support during the war of 1967. It has spied on us and stolen our greatest secrets, such as in the Jonathan Pollard affair. It has sold secret American technologies to the Communist Chinese. It has stolen nuclear materials from the United States. It has tricked America into bombing other nations such as in the attack on Libya in 1986. I could go on and on about Israel's treachery against America."

— David Duke, 2001 essay

"The beautiful Germany of the 1930s with blonde children happily running through every village has been replaced with a multi-racial cesspool. Out of work Africans can be seen shuffling along the same streets, which used to be clean and safe in the days of the National Socialists. One day, people in Germany will grow tired of the politically correct police state that is destroying their lives. They will recover their national pride and start speaking the truth about their past regardless of what the militant lesbians or thought police tell them."

— Ian Mosley, whitecivilrights.com, Oct. 30, 2007

Then again, Floyd Lee Corkins, the Family Research Council shooter, cited the SPLC hate group list as a reason why he decided to attack the conservative nonprofit in 2012. The FRC is listed as a hate group by the SPLC due to their support for traditional family values. Corkins said he wanted to “kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in victims’ faces, and kill the guard.”

The late Sen. Robert Bryd of West Virginia was a member of the Ku Klux Klan before ending his membership in 1952. He ran for Congress that year. Nevertheless, he deeply regretted his affiliation with the organization for the rest of his life. He also regretted being part of the filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts.

This is probably just a case of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Scalise’s communications team also noted that the then-state lawmaker was poorly staffed at the time.

Yes, this is terrible staffing indeed. And it comes at a time when Rep. Michael Grimm of New York has pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Editor's Note: The original post claimed that Duke said the Holocaust was a myth.  This was actually said by  Mohammad Ali Ramini, an adviser to then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  We apologize for the error.