*An elected official in Congress spoke at a conference in 2002 hosted by a white supremacist group founded in 2000 by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
Twelve years before he was chosen by his colleagues as House majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) addressed the members of European-American Unity and Rights Organization at their gathering in Louisiana.
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 EURO 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.
“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Moira Bagley Smith, a spokeswoman for Scalise, said in a statement. “In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families. He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”
Later on Monday, Scalise told NOLA.com, “I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.”
An aide to Scalise noted that at the time Scalise had only one aide and that he was speaking to any group that would listen to his argument about “slush funds.” According to a contemporaneous Stormfront post, Scalise referenced such funds in his remarks to the EURO conference.
“In addition to plans to implement tactical strategies that were discussed, the meeting was productive locally as State Representative, Steve Scalise, discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or ‘slush funds’ that have little or no accountability,” user Alsace Hebert wrote on May 21, 2002.
Two years after speaking at the conference, Scalise was one of just six state representatives who voted to oppose making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday in Louisiana. That was at least the second time Scalise had voted against an MLK holiday. He was one of three lawmakers to vote against it in 1999, too.
Founded in 2000 by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke (who served as a Louisiana state representative from 1989 to 1992), EURO seeks to fight for “white civil rights.” The group is recognized as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As the SPLC notes, the group is largely inactive, serving primarily as a vehicle to promote Duke’s books.
“EURO already was well known as a racist hate group at the time that Steve Scalise apparently spoke to its workshop, and it is hard to believe that any aspiring politician would not have known that,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “In any case, it’s worth noting that Scalise apparently did not leave even after hearing other racist speakers spouting their hatred.”