Washington is all abuzz about a huge scandal regarding Rep Steve Scalise, soon to be House Majority Whip, and a 2002 speech he made to a meeting of a white supremacist group founded by known racist David Duke:
Twelve years before he was elected by his colleagues as House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) spoke at a conference hosted by white supremacist group European-American Unity and Rights Organization.
Louisiana political blogger Lamar White Jr. dug up a number of posts on Stormfront, one of the original white supremacist websites, that place Scalise at the 2002 gathering. According to one user who attended the conference, Scalise — then a state representative — spoke to the organization at a workshop “to teach the most effective and up-to-date methods of civil rights and heritage related activism.”
According to another Stormfront post, the National/International EURO Workshop on Civil Rights was held from May 17 to 18, 2002, at the Landmark/Best Western Hotel in Metairie, Louisiana. The conference was also listed on an Anti-Defamation League list of extremist events for that year.
Scalise has admitted to making the speech, but claimed that he was unaware of the group’s racist nature.
Of course to the media, that’s like dipping a bloody toe in shark-infested waters with them being the sharks. Several members have asked how could Scalise have not known what the group was all about, with others implying that his speech was covertly racist.
Will Scalise be forced to resign? Who knows. It’s too early to tell. But to me, there are two interesting things about this controversy. For one, there is my snarky observation involving the Republican party. It is usually when they have power in Congress that a member or two will make a supreme mind-blowing screw up.
The second is even a bit more to the purpose of this blog. If one asks will Scalise survive, one needs to look to Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. While Perkins is now looked upon in Washington as a “voice of morality” by some, he has a history with racist groups probably more checkered than Scalise (at least for now.)
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 1996, Perkins tried to buy Duke’s list of supporters and then tried to cover it up unsuccessfully. SPLC also said that for this unfortunate slip of ethics, Perkins was fined by the Federal Elections Commission.
In 2005, FRC offered an explanation for Perkins:
Tony Perkins was the manager of the 1996 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Woody Jenkins in Louisiana where Impact Media was contracted to make pre-recorded telephone calls for the campaign. In 1999, an unrelated federal investigation uncovered that David Duke had a financial interest in the company, which he did not report to the IRS, resulting in his conviction on federal tax evasion charges. This connection was not known to Mr. Perkins until 1999. Mr. Perkins profoundly opposes the racial views of Mr. Duke and was profoundly grieved to learn that Duke was a party to the company that had done work for the 1996 campaign.
These facts have been widely reported in Louisiana and the reports appearing now in various partisan media are not accurate. In 2003, Mr. Jenkins published a letter in the major daily in Baton Rouge responding to a critical article that resurrected the same distortion. “[I]t is unfortunate,” Jenkins wrote, “for you to smear a good man like [then-] Rep. Tony Perkins. There is absolutely nothing about the matter that should taint Rep. Perkins. His intentions were entirely honorable, and neither he nor I have ever been ‘in bed’ with David Duke as you so crudely and unjustifiably allege.”
That’s all well and good, but then there is the 2001 incident:
. . . Perkins was photographed addressing a gathering of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. The group, a direct descendent of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s, has called African Americans a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins, who later denied knowledge of the group’s racist views, spoke in front of a Confederate flag (seen here, courtesy of Right Wing Watch).
That would be this photo below:
So Rep. Scalise should take comfort in the fact that even though Perkins tried to buy a list of supporters from a known racist, got caught trying to hide it, and then got caught addressing another racist group, he is still now look upon as a “moral leader” by members of the media, Congress, and lots of supporters.
Heck, that being the case, maybe Rep. Scalise can swing a Nobel Peace Prize nomination from this controversy.