In just a few days, Republicans will rake over both houses of Congress, and while we'll still have America's first black president heading the executive branch, we've just handed control of our entire legislature to a party whose leadership includes a man who admits to being a guest speaker at a 2002 conference for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a White rights group founded by former Republican Louisiana state representative and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. That man is Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was outed by Louisiana blogger Lamar White, Jr. after he followed a trail of posts on Stormfront:
According to recently uncovered posts on Stormfront, the Internet’s oldest and most notorious white nationalist and neo-Nazi forum, the United States House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise (R- Louisiana), was allegedly an honored guest and speaker at an international conference of white supremacist leaders.
Although Scalise wasn't listed among the guests in the event's promotional materials, The Washington Post's Robert Costa got confirmation from Scalise's office that then-State Rep. Scalise did attend, and did speak at the event, but only accidentally:
The 48-year-old Scalise, who ascended to the House GOP’s third-ranking post earlier this year, confirmed through an adviser that he once appeared at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization.
...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.
...“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.”
Scalise's excuses sound particularly darling after six years of conservatives trying to drum Obama out of office for standing vaguely close to one or another black person, but Scalise's spokesperson hews very closely to what the Stormfront posts explicitly pinned on him, and no more. So far, no audio or video of the event has surfaced, so at this point, he's only copping to accidentally building racist support for his policies.
But that's really the Republicans' entire problem. Scalise is not some back-bench rando or flaming wingnut, he is the Republicans' House Majority Whip, the third highest-ranking GOP member in the House of Representatives. To put that in perspective, Scalise is the GOP equivalent of House of Cards' Frank Underwood, season one-style. He's also the guy, you might recall, who was tasked with defending the new House GOP's diverse leadership, in which some of the white people are women:
Taking Scalise at his word, it wasn't the racist ideology that appealed to him, it was his policies that appealed to the racists, a predicament that even the most forward-leaning Republicans constantly find themselves in, for whatever reason, but not because Republican policies are racist. It's an odd inversion of the Republican critique of black voters, which is that they ignore policy in order to vote on race. Maybe it's time for Republicans to face the fact that both groups are voting for the candidates and policies that speak to them.
Update: Steve Scalise spoke extensively with NOLA.com on Monday to reinforce the part of his spokesperson's statement where he went and spoke to anyone who would ask. "I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group," Scalise said, and so far, nobody's asking why they didn't detest him. My favorite part, though, is how Scalise chose to illustrate his take-all-comers attitude toward White Supremacists, or whoever:
I don't support some of the things I have read about this group. I don't support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana.
I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group (they're actually non-partisan - TC). ... I still went and spoke to them.
Klan? Lady-voters? Tomato, tomahto. Yep, that's the guy you want defending your gender diversity.