Rep. Steve Scalise, the third ranking Republican in Congress, spoke at a white supremacist group’s conference in 2002. The group called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) was founded by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK.
Scalise, who was elected to Congress in 2008, does not deny that he spoke at the event, but says he was unaware that the group was affiliated with racists and neo-Nazis. However, Scalise definitely knew Duke, who had run several prominent races in Scalise’s home state of Louisiana. In a 1999 interview, Scalise told a reporter that he agreed with Duke’s “conservative” values but didn’t think he was electable.
Today, Scalise’s spokeswoman Moira Bagley Smith issued a statement: “In 2002, [Scalise] 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. He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question.”
The 2002 event did generate headlines at the time: the Iowa Cubs, a minor league baseball team, refused to stay at the hotel where the racist group's event was taking place. The hotel also issued a statement at the time saying it did not agree with the group but would honor its obligations.
The news has surfaced at a bad time for the Republican Party, which is just days away from taking control of the House and the Senate — and which recently elected Rep. Scalise as House Majority Whip, the third ranking figure after the Speaker and the Majority Leader. No members of the GOP leadership have addressed the issue so far.