Despite intense criticism surrounding a speech made by Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise to a white supremacist group in 2002, Republican Party leadership in the House is standing by the embattled congressman.
Scalise recently confirmed he spoke at an event in 2002 that was hosted by an organization connected to white supremacist leaders, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, but maintained that he had no idea of the group’s ties at the time. A former campaign manager for Duke, who organized the event, confirmed that Scalise most likely was unaware of the organization’s white supremacist ties.
“One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn,” Scalise said in a statement. “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.”
Following a firestorm of bipartisan backlash, House Speaker John Boehner announced in a statement released Tuesday that he is confident in Scalise continuing his position as House majority whip.
“More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate,” Boehner’s statement read. “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.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a similar statement of support, saying Scalise “acknowledged he made a mistake and has condemned the views that organization espouses.”
“I’ve known him as a friend for many years and I know that he does not share the beliefs of that organization,” McCarthy said.
Support for Scalise has also come from both sides of the aisle, with African-American Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Louisiana Democrat in the House, telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he doesn’t think Scalise “has a racist bone in his body.”
“Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character,” Richmond said.
In response to the GOP’s support of Scalise, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement slamming the congressman and House Republican leadership. The statement criticized Scalise for choosing to “cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis” at the event.
“While David Duke defends Scalise, Speaker Boehner and Leader McCarthy are refusing to condemn Scalise's choice of allies.”