House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), the #3 Republican in the U.S. House, has Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) “full confidence as our Whip,” according to a statement put out by Boehner’s office. That’s despite the fact that Scalise spoke at a white supremacist event in 2002.
This sentiment is echoed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who claims that he’s known Scalise “as a friend for many years and I know that he does not share the beliefs” of the organization that hosted the event.
The event in question was hosted by an organization called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, which was founded by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Although Scalise spoke at the event more than a decade ago, his appearance at the event did not become widely known until a local blogger uncovered several posts buried in the archives of the white supremacist cite Stormfront. According to one Stormfront user’s account of Scalise’s speech, “Representative Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.”
Boehner labeled Scalise’s decision to appear at this event an “error in judgment.” Scalise, meanwhile, blames his attendance, at least in part, on the fact that he did not have a scheduler at the time of the event.
That excuse has not convinced at least one prominent conservative. RedState blogger Erick Erickson, who is influential among Republicans, appeared baffled Monday night that Scalise did not know who he was speaking to when he spoke before a former KKK leader’s organization. “How do you not know? How do you not investigate?” Erickson wrote, adding that “By 2002, everybody knew Duke was still the man he had claimed not to be. EVERYBODY.”
Duke, for his part, initially seemed supportive of Scalise once this story broke. He told Huffington Post on Monday that Scalise is “a good person” that he agrees with on many issues. By Tuesday, however, Duke appeared to withdraw his support for Scalise, saying that he “wouldn’t vote for [Scalise] because I disagree with his policy on Israel.”