House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — trying to quell a media frenzy during a holiday news lull — acknowledged Tuesday that it was “mistake” for him to have spoken at an event founded by white nationalist David Duke 12 years ago while serving as a Louisiana state representative.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the third-ranking Republican in the House acknowledged speaking at the 2002 convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Over the weekend, a liberal blogger in Louisiana first revealed Scalise’s speech at the event, setting off a firestorm in the media.
“Twelve years ago, I spoke to many different Louisiana groups as a state representative, trying to build support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes,” Scalise said in a statement provided by his office. “One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn.”
“It was a mistake I regret,” Scalise added, “and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold. I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”
“As a Catholic, these groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my own personal faith, and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry,” he said. “Those who know me best know I have always been passionate about helping, serving, and fighting for every family that I represent. And I will continue to do so.”
House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday offered his support for Scalise, who was elected majority whip earlier this year.
“More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate,” Boehner said. “Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our Whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans.”
Likewise, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a similar statement of support.
“Congressman Scalise acknowledged he made a mistake and has condemned the views that organization espouses,” McCarthy said. “I’ve known him as a friend for many years and I know that he does not share the beliefs of that organization.”
Meanwhile, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office called the revelation about Scalise “deeply troubling.”
“Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.