The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee harshly condemned House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Tuesday, a day after reports surfaced that he spoke at a white supremacist event in 2002 while serving as a state legislator.
 
“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong,” DCCC press secretary Josh Schwerin said in an emailed statement.
 
Over the weekend, a Louisiana blog published posts from a white supremacist message board that mentioned Scalise speaking at an event for a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Republican leadership has so far withheld comment on the news.
 
“While David Duke defends Scalise, Speaker BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE and Leader McCarthy are refusing to condemn Scalise’s choice of allies. Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups,” Schwerin said.

“Republicans are off to a banner start for their new Congress — on the path to break their own record for least popular Congress in history.”
 
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y), the former head of the DCCC, tweeted “GOP Whip #Scalise: I thought those white hoods were a weird fashion statement?”
 
In an interview with The Times-Picayune on Monday, Scalise didn’t deny the appearance, and instead said that he spoke to “any group that called” in order to trumpet his disapproval of a state tax plan. He added that he doesn’t remember speaking at the event but that he’s never supported the group’s message.
 
“I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group,” he said.
 
“I don't support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period.”
 
Criticism continues to mount from both the left and the right. Noted conservative pundit Erick Erickson wrote a scathing blog post Monday night hours after the revelations where he dismissed Scalise’s excuse.
 
“By 2002, everybody knew that Duke was still the man he claimed not to be. EVERYBODY,” Erickson said in a blog on his website RedState.com. “How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?”

Mo Elleithee, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, also threw water on Scalise's rationale.



"That weak attempt at an explanation doesn’t pass the smell test and raises far more questions than it answers," he said in a statement. 

"Does he not believe that speaking to an anti-semitic hate group legitimizes them and elevates their racist and divisive existence? How abhorrent does a group have to be to decline their invitation?"
 
But Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) defended his colleague from charges against Scalise’s character.
 
“I don't think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body," Richmond, who is black, told the New Orleans Times Picayune.
 
"Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character."