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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), the third highest-ranking member in the Republican caucus, admitted on Monday that he spoke at a white-power conference in 2002.

Scalise’s presence as an “honored guest” at a 2002 European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) conference was first reported on Sunday by Louisiana-based blogger Lamar White, Jr. EURO, which was founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, is classified as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to posts that White, Jr. uncovered from the white-power site, Scalise — who was a state representative at the time — addressed the crowd and “discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or ‘slush funds’ that have little or no accountability,” and “brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.”

On Monday, Scalise’s spokeswoman Moira Bagley confirmed his attendence at the event to The Washington Post:

“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Bagley said. “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.”

She added, “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.”

Bagley’s statement does not specify if or when Scalise realized that he had addressed a group that believes that “the Jews are the enemy of the White race, and they are largely responsible for the ‘browning’ of America,” or that “the beautiful Germany of the 1930s with blonde children happily running through every village has been replaced with a multi-racial cesspool.” Furthermore, her claim that he “has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question” is rather undercut by the fact that he gave an apparently well-regarded speech to their annual conference.

Scalise is not the first prominent Republican to associate with white supremacists; Scalise’s former colleague in the House, Ron Paul, once praised Duke in a newsletter. But Paul never held a position nearly as powerful as majority whip.

It remains to be seen whether the new revelations will cost Scalise his position; GOP leaders are reportedly “monitoring” the situation.

Meanwhile, the news seems extremely unlikely to help Republicans in their mostly forgotten quest to reach out to minority voters.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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