Louisiana GOP stands behind Scalise

Louisiana GOP stands behind Scalise
© Greg Nash

Louisiana Republicans are defending House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (R-La.) after he admitted Monday to speaking at a white supremacist group’s event in 2002 while serving as a state representative.

"I know Congressman Scalise to be a good man who is fair-minded and kindhearted,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said in a statement to The Hill. “I'm confident he absolutely rejects racism in all its forms." 

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The Louisiana Republican Party also offered an unrestrained endorsement of the third-ranking Republican in the House, and called the controversy a “manufactured” attempt to undermine him.

“For the 25 years that I’ve known Congressman Scalise, he has been an aggressive advocate for conservative reform,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere Jr. said in a statement to The Hill. 

“He has been willing to bring this message to anyone who would listen and has spoken to thousands of groups during his career in public service,” Villere added. “I’ve also known Steve to be a man of great integrity who embodies his Christian faith in his daily life. This manufactured blogger story is simply an attempt to score political points by slandering the character of a good man.”

And Timmy Teepell, a Republican strategist in Louisiana who said he has known Scalise for more than a decade, called him a “good man” and said the controversy wouldn’t follow him because it was a one-time mistake. 

“This will blow away because there’s no there there,” Teepell said. “If this was a pattern of behavior, if it went deeper than him speaking one time to this group and was tied in to some deeper belief system he had, this could unravel for him, but there's nothing there. He spoke to a group he shouldn’t have spoken to, but it’s not a reflection on him as a person. It’s not who he is.” 

The Louisiana political blog CenLamar initially published posts from Stormfront.com, a white supremacist message board, which mentioned Scalise speaking to a group created by David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Scalise’s office called the revelation a “stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”

 “Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Moira Bagley Smith, Scalise’s spokeswoman, said in the statement. 

“In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families.” 

But not every Republican is sticking by Scalise. Influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson said Duke’s involvement with the group should have been a red flag.

“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?”