The swiftness with which Scalise and other House Republican leaders moved to defuse the controversy over his appearance before Duke’s group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), shows their sensitivity to being tied to anything that smacks of racially insensitive politics. Acting as quickly as they did, the leaders no doubt hope that the Scalise controversy will have mostly died down by the time lawmakers gather next week, with Republicans celebrating the fact that they now control both the House and Senate.
Still, what remains unclear is why Scalise did not immediately recognize at the time the dangers of speaking to a group whose name suggested its origins and racist interests. His friends and allies contend that he has been adept at avoiding racially polarizing actions or connections that plagued other politicians in the past.
Stephanie Grace, who has long covered Scalise in Louisiana, posted an article Tuesday night on the Web site of the New Orleans Advocate in which she said she never saw any evidence that Scalise endorsed the views of Duke’s organization. She said she has seen him work closely with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who is African American, and others in the black community.
She also wrote that Scalise once had said to her that he was like Duke without the baggage. As a result, she wrote, “I also get how the invitation wouldn’t have set off alarm bells, given that Scalise had long since made his awkward peace with the situation. In fact, by 2002, Scalise may have been so used to the idea of dealing with Duke voters that he really considered EURO just another part of his constituency, even if it was a distasteful one.“And an irony from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Reports that Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, gave a speech to a white nationalist conference connected with David Duke in 2002 are not accurate, the man who organized the events said Wednesday (Dec. 31).
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to Duke, said Scalise spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association -- not affiliated with the European-American Unity and Rights conference that was held in the same Metairie hotel -- two-and-a-half hours before the white nationalist event started.
Barbara Noble, who was dating Knight and said she attended the meeting, also said Wednesday that Scalise spoke to the civic group, not EURO.