Boehner, McCarthy stand by Scalise
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House Republican leadership is standing by Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes MORE (La.) after the No. 3 House Republican admitted to speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002.

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both issued statements Tuesday afternoon voicing their support for Scalise as majority 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 in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our Whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans," Boehner added. 

The Speaker's statement came moments after Scalise issued a statement formally acknowledging that he spoke to the group, among "many" others, more than a decade ago while speaking in the state on issues such as government spending, corruption and taxes. 

"One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn," Scalise said. 

"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," he said.

"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 added, suggesting he would not step down.

McCarthy defended Scalise, noting that the Republican “acknowledged he made a mistake and has condemned the views that organization espouses."

"I’ve known him as a friend for many years and I know that he does not share the beliefs of that organization," McCarthy added.

Scalise had come under fire from some Democrats for speaking to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, while as a state legislator in 2002.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it "deeply troubling" for Scalise to speak to the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group.

“Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement earlier on Tuesday.

However, Pelosi did not call for Scalise to step down.

Scalise on Monday said in an interview with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that he "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,” he said.

But many doubted Scalise's claim that he didn't know about the group and its message. 

“By 2002, everybody knew that Duke was still the man he claimed not to be. Everybody,” conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote Monday afternoon on his site “How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance?”

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus leadership, said Monday that Boehner should investigate whether Scalise spoke at the white supremacist event, saying she hoped for a "thorough investigation into the circumstances."

Still, Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond defended his Louisiana colleague, saying Scalise did not have a "racist bone in his body."