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Rep. Steve Scalise: 'I Went And Spoke To Any Group That Called'

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
J. Scott Applewhite AP
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the recently-elected majority whip in the House, is explaining his appearance at a gathering of white supremacists.

Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, says when he appeared before a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization in 2002, he was not aware of the kind of positions they took.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies EURO as a white nationalist group, the organization was founded by former Klan leader David Duke.

In an interview with New Orleans Times-Picayune, Scalise, whose position makes him the third highest ranking Republican in the House, said at the time of his speech, he had no idea the group was associated with Duke and had he known, he never would have appeared before them.

Scalise said that at the time, he was campaigning against the Stelly tax plan, which increased income tax in Louisiana.

He told the Times-Picayune:

"I don't have any records from back in 2002, but when people called and asked me to speak to groups, I went and spoke to groups. It was myself and [former state Sen.] James David Cain who were opposed to the Stelly tax plan."I was the only legislator from the New Orleans area who was opposed to the plan publicly, so I was asked to speak all around the New Orleans region. I would go and speak about how this tax plan was bad."

At the time, Scalise said, he didn't have a scheduler or the benefit of Google.

He went on:

"If I knew today what they were about, I wouldn't go. My staff, they are able to vet organizations. We turn down requests from organizations we don't approve of. "Now, I still go speak to people who don't think like me. I'll go speak to liberal groups a lot. But a group like this? I would not go to speak to. They don't share my values. "You can talk to [New Orleans U.S. Rep.] Cedric Richmond. ... He knows what kind of person I am. "It's insulting and offensive for anybody to insinuate that I would affiliate with a group like that."

The Washington Post spoke to David Duke Monday night. He said Scalise was asked to speak by "two of Duke's longtime associates."

The Post adds:

"Scalise 'says he didn't realize what the conference was. I don't know if he did or did not,' Duke said. He also said Scalise should not be forced to resign, saying Scalise was merely taking an opportunity to meet with 'constituents.' "'What politician would ever pass up an opportunity to talk to his constituents?' Duke said. 'It sounds like they are just playing politics.'"

It's worth noting that in 1999, Scalise was interviewed by Roll Call about the possibility that Duke would run for a congressional seat.

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