Scalise calls 2002 speech to supremacists a 'mistake'
BATON ROUGE - A day after a 2002 speech given by Rep. Steve Scalise to a white supremacist group made national headlines, the Congressman said his decision to speak to the group was a "mistake."
Scalise, the House Majority Whip, released a statement Tuesday which said the speech to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization was "one of many" given to groups around Louisiana at the time because he was trying to drum up support for budget legislation.
The group, called EURO, was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. A Scalise aide said Monday that he only spoke about fiscal matters to the group, and one of the event's organizers said Scalise did not know about their controversial history at the time.
"It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold," Scalise said Tuesday. "As a Catholic, these groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my own personal faith, and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry."
The speech made national headlines after it was first reported by liberal Louisiana blogger Lamar White Jr. Other blogs noted comments during a 1999 special election in which Scalise and Duke were contenders for the same seat, and Scalise said he embraced many of the same conservative views of the former KKK leader but felt he was a more electable candidate.
"The novelty of David Duke has worn off," Scalise said at the time. "The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can't get elected, and that's the first and most important thing."
Scalise said Tuesday he was "disappointed" someone would try to connect him to hate groups for political gains.
The news comes as Republicans are preparing to take control of Congress next year. House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Tuesday that he has "full confidence" in Scalise as whip.
"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.
CNN reported Scalise was also calling members of Congress to gauge his support after the speech made the rounds in the media.