House Speaker John Boehner voiced support Tuesday for Rep. Steve Scalise, as the No. 3-ranking GOP leader came under fire for addressing a white nationalist group in 2002.
“More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgement, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character.”
Boehner said Scalise, elected in June by his fellow Republicans to be the House majority whip, has his “full confidence” to remain in the leadership job.
Boehner’s statement was the strongest show of support for Scalise, who has been trying to tamp down controversy surrounding his appearance at a 2002 conference of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), an organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The Southern Poverty Law Center says EURO, which claims to fight for “white civil rights,” is a hate group.
Scalise’s appearance at the event, while in his capacity as a Louisiana state legislator, was first reported Sunday by CenLamar.com, a liberal blog. Scalise was first elected to Congress in a 2008 special election.
The revelation that Scalise spoke to a hate group comes as the GOP prepares to take control of both chambers in Congress and as Republicans try to make strides with minority voters.
Scalise said in a statement issued Tuesday that he made “a mistake I regret” by speaking to EURO. In an interview Monday with the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the congressman said he does not recall the event and does not associate himself with the group’s views. Scalise said he spoke to many different groups at the time to build support for a state bill to cut spending and stop tax increases.
“I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views group like these hold,” he said Tuesday. “I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain. As a Catholic, these groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my own personal faith, and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry.”
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SOURCE: USA Today