Should Majority Whip Steve Scalise Meet with Civil Rights Leaders?

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) (foreground) speaks to members of the media as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) listens following a leadership election at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) (foreground) speaks to members of the media as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) listens following a leadership election at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Last week, Marc Morial of the National Urban League and I sent a letter to Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, asking him to meet with us to explain his 2002 speech to the white supremacist, anti-Semitic European-American Unity and Rights Organization and to discuss ways to work together for the good of all Americans, regardless of their race or religion.

While we acknowledge and appreciate that Rep. Scalise has apologized for his actions and has publicly stated that he rejects the bigotry that EURO promotes, legitimate questions over his appearance remain, and we feel that it is crucial for him to meet with the civil and human rights community to further clarify questions surrounding this current controversy.

Rep. Scalise is now the Republican majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is the third-ranking leadership position behind Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. With this position comes great responsibility, expectation and trust that Scalise will work to enact policies that serve the interests of our diverse nation. Unfortunately, his ability to live up to this trust has been greatly compromised by his appearance before the David Duke-led EURO. Simply put, the public emergence of this 2002 speech to the hate group places a cloud over Republican leadership at the start of the 114th Congress.

For some years now, Republicans have spoken often about the need to broaden their appeal to people of color and women. Obviously, associating with the kind of hateful rhetoric and policies espoused by Duke and his followers is the wrong way to go. By contrast, the work of the civil and human rights community is built on the values of fairness, justice, inclusion and equality that are central to our collective identities as a nation. So beyond explaining his speech, I think there are several areas where it is important that Scalise and the civil and human rights community discuss reform in order to end some of the debilitating disparities plaguing our nation.

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Source: The Root | 

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