Democrat: Scalise doesn't have 'racist bone in his body'

Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond defended colleague Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) amid reports that Scalise spoke at a white supremacist convention in 2002.

“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."

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Over the weekend, a Louisiana blog reported that Scalise may have spoke at a rally hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group started by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Scalise told the paper that he doesn't remember speaking with the group, but he traveled the area speaking to a number of groups about taxes.

While Richmond supports Scalise, the Louisiana Democratic Party bashed the GOP lawmaker and House majority whip in a statement. The party said the story is “disturbing” and accused allies of “trying to sweep this incident under the rug by blaming Scalise’s staff and claiming the then-state representative didn’t know the group’s ideology.”

“If someone in Louisiana didn't know about David Duke's beliefs in 2002, they must have been hiding under a very large rock somewhere,” Executive Director Stephen Handwerk said in an emailed statement.

“This is a serious stain on Scalise's record as a public servant, that he spoke to a hate group and now lacks the courage to face the voters and make amends for such an egregious lapse in judgment."

In a statement to The Hill, Scalise spokeswoman Moria Bagley did not deny that that Scalise spoke with the group but said that he’s never supported its white supremacist message.

“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints. In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around,” she said in an email.