Rep. Steve Scalise attempted to distance himself on Monday from the white supremacist group whose conference he spoke at in 2002 while a Louisiana state rep. “I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” Scalise told the Times-Picayune. “If I knew today what they were about, I wouldn’t go … It’s insulting and offensive for anybody to insinuate that I would affiliate with a group like that.”
Scalise’s comments came on the heels of a report revealing the now-House Majority Whip spoke at a conference organized by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) in 2002. The group is considered a hate group by many organizations, and was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Duke didn’t exactly make it easy for Scalise to run for political cover on Tuesday, telling Robert Costa of the Washington Post that Scalise had a “friendly” relationship with Duke’s longtime adviser, Kenny Knight.
Here’s more from the Post:
“Scalise would communicate a lot with my campaign manager, Kenny Knight,” Duke said in a phone interview. “That is why he was invited and why he would come. Kenny knew Scalise, Scalise knew Kenny. They were friendly…” Duke, who spoke to the crowd remotely, recalled Knight reaching out to Scalise in the weeks before the conference to come and update attendees on state affairs, and that Scalise accepted without reservation… “Maybe that is evidence he knew what he was doing when he came to the meeting,” Duke said. “Who knows? All I know is that Kenny liked him. He thought Scalise, who remember was just a state representative, was sharp. They’d talk about the Hollywood system, about the war, whatever I was concerned about.”
While Duke went on to say he didn’t have a personal relationship with the now–third-ranking House Republican, Duke’s comments certainly make it more difficult for Scalise to make the case that he didn’t know the racist politics of the group founded by Duke.