If anyone wondered why Republicans and conservatives continually lose the art of political warfare, their call for Rep. Steve Scalise to resign his post as House Majority Whip could be a case study.
In stark contrast to Obama administration imbroglios – Benghazi, the IRS scandal, violating the War Powers Resolution – it is not clear that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise even spoke to the 2002 conference of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a creation of former klansman David Duke. The mere lack of evidence has not kept commentators, left and right, from demanding he be denied his leadership position.
But if speaking to radicals and extremists is grounds for firing, then Steve Scalise should resign his post – right after Barack Obama resigns his.
The latest feeding frenzy erupted when a left-wing blogger unearthed evidence that then-state legislator Scalise spoke to the 2002 EURO event. Scalise said that, while he had no association with Duke, he did speak at the Landmark Best Western on the date in question to oppose the Stelly Tax Plan (hardly a white racialist issue). Immediately the media began drawing imaginary ties between the Congressman and the klansman.
There has never been an intimation that Scalise shares Duke’s racial views. Duke admitted that Scalise may have had no idea what EURO was. “When you’re running around different places and talking to events … and you don’t have anyone to vet them, that’s possible,” he said.
As far as any implied closeness between them, Duke said, “We never had a relationship at all, period.” He added, “Actually, I wouldn’t vote for him because I disagree with his policy on Israel,” Duke’s overarching policy interest.
A bipartisan, biracial coalition rose to uphold the congressman’s character. “I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Democrat in the state’s House delegation, and an African-American.
Elbert Guillory, who recently left the Democratic Party, also defended Scalise. Even the man who beat Duke in the 1991 governor’s race, Edwin Edwards, said, “Sometimes you end up in front of these groups through no fault of your own, and there are racial undertones.”
But that was not enough for the racial grievance industry. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) hand Heidi Beirich decried “the fact” that “Scalise was pandering for votes and support at a white supremacy event.” Her colleague, Mark Potok, said that claims Scalise did not know about EURO are “not believable” and that “the man was clearly pandering to the most extreme kind of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.” He added, “It’s worth noting that Scalise apparently did not leave even after hearing other racist speakers spouting their hatred.”
There’s just one problem with their assertions: Everything.
According to the event’s organizer, Kenny Knight, Scalise did not speak to the EURO conference but to the Jefferson Heights Civic Association.
Knight, an associate of Duke’s, organized the EURO conference and headed the civic association. Since he had secured the space for the EURO conference that afternoon, he says he booked the civic group in the same hall that morning. “I basically gave him a town-hall meeting to address constituents about legislation he was working on,” Knight said. “There were also other people who spoke before the civic association that day. One was from the Red Cross who talked about CPR … and there was a member of the local sheriff’s department on instituting a crime watch group in our neighborhood.”
CPR? The horror!
Knight specified, “It was not a EURO-sponsored event.”
The second problem is, contrary to Potok’s apparently baseless assertion, Scalise was not in attendance for the EURO conference at all. “Steve came in early on the first day of EURO, spoke for about 15 minutes, and he left,” Knight said. Kenny Knight’s then-girlfriend, Barbara Noble, agrees Scalise “was just up there for a few minutes – maybe 10, 15 at the most – and it was in the morning.” By the time the EURO confab began, Scalise was long gone.
The SPLC’s rush to judgment in lieu of the facts should bring greater scrutiny to bear on all its pronouncements. Sadly, it is hardly the first time Potok and the SPLC have slandered innocent people, with sometimes tragic results.
What is surprising is how deeply some on the right have taken the allegations of a left-wing blogger without a minute’s reflection or analysis.
If Scalise is unfit for office because as a local politician, without the benefit of proper vetting, he once spoke to an extremist group, then Republicans should call demand the resignation – of Barack Obama. The president has met with more racial extremists than Scalise ever dreamed.
In 2007, Obama shared a podium with New Black Panther Party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz. White House visitor records show a “Malik Shabazz” visited the White House; the administration claims improbably that it was a different Malik Shabazz.
Obama named Van Jones – a 9/11 Truther who led a Maoist street organization – his green jobs czar. In 2006 Jones’ group, Color of Change, helped screen the Spike Lee film “When the Levees Broke,” which features allegations the federal government dynamited the levees during Hurricane Katrina – a theory originally popularized by Louis Farrakhan.
Then there’s Al Sharpton, who inflamed the Crown Heights riots, which claimed the life of rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum. “Based on everything we have seen and read, Sharpton never called upon the rioters to stop their anti-Semitism-inspired violence,” Yankel’s brother, Norman, wrote. “To the contrary, he stirred them up.”
Unlike Duke, Sharpton’s incitement has been tied to the death of a Jew. I don’t say that to diminish Duke’s racialist and conspiratorial views – which I’ve written about before – but to properly assess Sharpton’s.
Nonetheless, Reverend Al visited the White House at least 72 times and advises Obama on presidential appointments. Education Secretary Arne Duncan “invited” 4,000 federal employees to attend Sharpton’s 2010 “Reclaim the Dream” rally, and Obama spoke to the convention of Sharpton’s National Action Network in April.
This does not include the radicals invited by Valerie Jarrett‘s Office of Public Engagement to be part of a “cultural policy summit” – including numerous conspiracy theorists who accused the government of selling crack in minority neighborhoods – and weekly “common purpose” meetings.
These actions were overseen by a man who was raised on the knee of Frank Marshall Davis, launched his career in the living room of Bill Ayers, and had Jeremiah Wright baptize his children.
These are not the attendees of a meeting addressed by an understaffed New Orleans politico. They are the chosen, cultivated associates of the most carefully protected individual in the nation, whose visitors go through the most rigorous vetting in the world.
Steve Scalise should resign not one second before Barack Obama does. The fact that some Republicans are focusing their fire on Scalise should shows how off-base their priorities are.
Some on the right, like me, disliked Scalise’s role in the Republican Study Committee and are using the allegation to settle scores. Others, like, John Hawkins, believe Boehner should bounce Scalise from his leadership position, because a “decent, honest political party” has to “police our own.”
But how is punishing someone for something he never did justice? If Republicans continually offer up fresh scalps at every allegation of insensitivity, when will it stop? Did bailing on Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock end the Democratic Party’s “war on women” rhetoric? On the contrary, it so emboldened them that their consultants ran a campaign so marked by feminine fearmongering that former Clinton adviser Bill McCallum said it made women “feel manipulated.”
Has the GOP leadership’s craven decision to overlook Obama’s extremism stopped howls of “racism”? Hardly. It has merely abetted the extremism of the guests invited, vetted, and in some cases appointed to serve in Obama’s White House.
Perhaps the nation would be better off if the media devoted a touch more attention to those associations which, unlike Scalise’s alleged mistaken appearance, are exerting a malign influence on our national policy.
Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews.com. The author of three books, Ben was Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine 2003-10. He is also a regular on the AFR Talk network’s “Nothing But Truth with Crane Durham.” His personal website is TheRightsWriter.com.