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Black leaders urge Scalise to address race controversy

Black leaders urge Scalise to address race controversy
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Two prominent black leaders made a personal plea to House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future MORE (R-La.) at the Capitol Tuesday: Give a speech on the House floor apologizing for speaking to a white supremacist group and repudiating “David Duke-type racist and divisive rhetoric and politics.”

Such a speech would reassure the “American public that as a member of House Majority leadership, [Scalise] is capable of being fair and inclusive in his judgments and decision-making on behalf of all Americans,” Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the National Urban League and a former New Orleans mayor, said in a statement after an hour-long meeting in Scalise’s office.

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Both Morial and Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, had written Scalise a scathing letter, questioning whether he should remain in GOP leadership after revelations he spoke to a white supremacist group when he was a Louisiana state lawmaker in 2002. The group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The Hill also reported that in 1996, state Rep. Scalise tried to kill a resolution that would have Louisiana apologize for its role in slavery. And he twice voted against the creation of a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil-rights leader.

In his statement Tuesday, Morial said he remains “undecided” about whether Scalise should resign his leadership post.

“I am, however, hopeful that moving forward Rep. Scalise will demonstrate that he is serious about acting in good faith to build relationships across the board that can result in addressing critical issues of national concern – beyond ideology and for the good of all Americans, not a select few,” Morial said.

Scalise spokeswoman Moira Smith did not respond to a request for comment about the meeting.

Scalise has previously apologized for speaking to EURO, saying he rejects all forms of bigotry. He privately met with House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) last week and will sit down with Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C) in the near-future. 

Morial called Tuesday’s gathering “a good meeting characterized by respectful dialogue and a thoughtful exchange of ideas between individuals who don’t always see eye-to-eye on policy issues.”

In addition to asking that Scalise give a floor speech, Morial and Henderson requested that the GOP leader schedule regular meetings focused on voting-rights and prison reform. They also want Scalise to facilitate a broader meeting between civil rights leaders and House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Kevin Mccarthy (R-Calif.).

“In recent years, this dialogue has been largely cut-off by House Majority leadership, and I believe it is of utmost importance that we begin to reengage based on one mandate alone – liberty, justice and economic opportunity for all,” Morial said.

“Today was a step forward, with many more to go, in that direction.”