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Black leaders chide Scalise for past White supremacists association

By Hazel Trice Edney
On January 26, 2015
Steve Scalise

Black leaders are pressing Scalise, who recently admitted speaking at a hate group in 2002, to have 
a discussion about Voting Rights as a way of atonement.
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Leaders of two Black civil rights organizations have chided and requested a meeting with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), recently accused of having spoken before a White supremacist group.

With Republicans now controlling both Houses of Congress, the four-page letter from Wade Henderson, president/CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) and Marc Morial, president/CEO of the National Urban League (NUL), indicates a growing concern about a worsening of an already conservative agenda.

“We write to express our deep concern regarding your acknowledged 2002 speech before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a [W]hite supremacist, anti-Semitic, and neo-Nazi organization classified by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group,” the letter states. “Participation in the 2002 EURO conference by any member of Congress would be troubling. However, it is of particular concern to us that a member chosen to be part of the Majority’s leadership team in the House of Representatives, whose responsibilities include protecting the interests of all Americans, would legitimize the existence of such a group.”

Scalise has said in widespread reports that he “reject that kind of hateful bigotry” and had no idea the group was associated with White supremacy. At the time, he said he was disparate and was willing to speak to anyone that would hear him. Short staffed, he said the group, also associated with former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke, had not been thoroughly vetted.

But, the Henderson-Morial letter issues a subtle rebuke, clearly expressing disbelief that Scalise is being totally forthcoming about his knowledge of the organization’s connection to Duke, a Republican who served one term as a Louisiana state representative. Duke also ran twice for president, once for the Louisiana State Senate, the U. S. Senate, the U. S. House and governor of Louisiana – all unsuccessfully.

“It seems implausible to us that, as a state representative with national aspirations at the time, you would not have heard about the Louisiana-based EURO, which was already a well-known hate group led by America’s most famous white supremacist, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. While you indicated that, had you known of the affiliation, you never would have accepted an invitation to speak to a David Duke-sponsored group, you have also stated that the invitation to speak came from Kenny Knight, a long-time associate of David Duke and one of your neighbors. As you might imagine, it is difficult to fathom how you would accept an invitation from a Duke associate to speak to a group that you do not know, and yet, ask no questions about the engagement.”

Both the LCCHR and the NUL represent a vast number of organizational associates that deal directly with national race-related issues. Therefore, they apparently need reassurance. LCCHR is a coalition of more than 200 national organizations and the NUL, founded in 1910, has 95 affiliates that advocate for economic empowerment of tens of millions of underserved people in 36 states. Pointing to these constituencies as their backup, the men are pushing for a Capitol Hill meeting to start the new Congress with has much influence as they can muster.

They say they wish to discuss key issues with Scalise, including his position on efforts to repair the Voting Rights Act, which 50th anniversary will be celebrated this year even after its “pre-clearance clause” was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. They also listed as discussion items, his views on legal efforts to overturn President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform and congressional efforts for job creation by investments in public transportation systems, reconstruction of roads, bridges and public facilities.

“We are writing to request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss ways to work together for the good of all of the Americans that you represent, regardless of race or religion, in order to help move forward after the serious and legitimate concerns that your participation in this event has raised,” the letter states. 

Attempts to reach Scalise’s office to ask whether he would meet with Henderson and Morial were unsuccessful. A recording picking up his Capitol Hill office phone repeatedly said his voice mail was full.

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