Civil rights group calls for Scalise to resign as House Majority Whip

The story that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was an honored guest for a group of white supremacists in 2002 has gone viral, prompting the Southern Poverty Law Center to call for his resignation as House Majority Whip.

The story that Steve Scalise was an honored guest for a group of white supremacists in 2002 has gone viral, prompting a claim of ignorance from the House Majority Whip from Louisiana, but the Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t buying it one bit.

Blogger and IND contributor Lamar White Jr. broke the story Sunday, and Scalise, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, issued a response Tuesday, confirming his attendance at the 2002 workshop while also claiming ignorance of the group’s views.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise

“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 says in the statement. “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, 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. 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.”

Scalise’s denial, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is pure BS. The Alabama-based civil rights advocacy group, which keeps tabs on America’s hate groups, is now calling for Scalise to resign from his post as House Majority Whip.

Here’s some excerpts from a blog the SPLC posted Tuesday afternoon in reaction to the congressman’s statement:

Faced with an exploding crisis sparked by the revelation that the No. 3 Republican in the House gave a speech to a well-known group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis a dozen years ago, the GOP in Rep. Steve Scalise’s home state of Louisiana is doubling down, calling the entire episode a mere “manufactured blogger story.”

Really? A manufactured blogger story?

Scalise claimed yesterday that he had no idea of the views promoted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), whose workshop he addressed in 2002 at a hotel in Metairie, La. And he was backed by an array of Louisiana Republicans including state GOP chair Roger Villere Jr., who described Scalise as “a man of great integrity who embodies his Christian faith in his life.” Villere dismissed the story broken by Louisiana blogger Lamar White Jr. as “an attempt to score political points by slandering the character of a good man.”

But Scalise’s claim of ignorance is almost impossible to believe. He was a state representative and an aspiring national politician at the time, and EURO already was well known as a hate group led by America’s most famous white supremacist.

Scalise, a politician who already had national aspirations at the time of the 2002 EURO conference, certainly should have known what his dalliance with open white supremacists might cost him. In 1998, a scandal erupted when it was revealed that U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Georgia) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had endorsed and spoken to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a major white supremacist hate group. In late 2002, after singing the praises of segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), Lott was forced to resign his leadership post.

Now Steve Scalise should do the same.

Read the SPLC's full blog post here.