In an interview with the Times-Picayune, House Majority whip Steve Scalise acknowledged that he once spoke at an event in his state of Louisiana hosted by white supremacists.
In 2002, Scalise was invited to speak at any event for the Eurpean-American Unity and Rights Organization, known as EURO. The congressman said that at the time he would generally speak to any organization that requested an appearance, and had no idea that EURO was founded by former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke and had ties to neo-Nazi activist groups.
“I don't have any records from back in 2002, but when people called and asked me to speak to groups, I went and spoke to groups,” Scalise said. “I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.” Scalise told the Time-Picayune that David Duke was never present at any event he attended.
Though Scalise denied having any knowledge of EURO’s ties to white supremacists, many Democrats have argued that there would be no way he couldn’t have known, and are questioning whether or not the congressman should be allowed to remain in his leadership position.
“It’s hard to believe, given David Duke’s reputation in Louisiana, that somebody in politics in Louisiana wasn’t aware of Duke’s associations with the group and what they stand for,” Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro said. “If that’s the case and he agreed to join them for their event, then I think it’s a real test for Speaker Boehner as to whether congressman Scalise should remain in Republican leadership.”
Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said that the revelations about Scalise’s speech are a “big deal,” especially in a political word where race is an ongoing issue.
“Race still is, sadly, an ugly aspect of our politics,” Connolly said. “No politician should ever find himself/herself addressing a white supremacist organization except to tell them to go to hell.”
David Duke said he remembers Scalise as being a “nice guy.”
The congressman told the Louisiana newspaper that despite the controversy, he is proud of the work he’s done and confident that supporters will see past the incident.
“At the end of the day, you are judged by your character. And look, I'm proud of my record of working to help people throughout my years of public service. Whether they have the same political philosophy as me or not, I work hard to help all people.”