It's a slow news week. People are on winter breaks, celebrating the holidays and the incoming New Year. What constitutes a newsworthy item during such a slow time? The scandal that wasn't, as it turns out.
First you take a reporter working for the Washington Post reporting on a story written on a state politics website by a blogger in Louisiana. Add the bonus of the victim being a newly ascended Republican in the U.S. House, now third in the leadership ranks. Mix in cable news outlets with lots of air time to fill and presto! We have a scandal brewing.
Or, do we? Rep Steve Scalise, (R-LA) is the incoming House Majority Whip. It was reported Monday that he spoke to "a gathering of white supremacists" back in 2002 in Metairie, Louisiana - Scalise's home, a suburb of New Orleans. At the time, Scalise was a state representative with visions of pursuing higher elected office.
The Washington Post reporter promoted the breaking story heavily on social media Monday. It was reported on CNN by late afternoon. It has been all the buzz on Tuesday cable news shows. CNN has been very deliberate to use black female anchors and talking heads to talk about the story.
Tuesday, however, the real story breaks that should cause heartburn to all those giddily reporting a story involving race and the GOP, but it won't. It never does. The question is till being asked if Scalise should resign his position, preferably his seat in Congress. That's how Democrats roll, despite their own smarmy record on race relations and elected officials.
Here are the facts, as retold by the guy who invited Scalise to speak to this group:
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, said in an interview Tuesday that he personally invited House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to speak to a 2002 gathering of white supremacists.So, David Duke was not present, he was videotaped from Russia. Scalise was not told the facts of the group or Duke's association. And, he left after being the first speaker - about 15 minutes later. Silly enough for you yet?
“He was my neighbor,” Knight said of Scalise, who was serving as a state representative at the time of the conference. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”
“This all came about because I organized the EURO meeting for David Duke as a courtesy after he had moved to Russia. I’ve known David for 40 years so I did him a favor. As part of that, I decided to ask Steve, our local representative, to come by and say a few words before the conference started,” Knight said. “He agreed, believing it was going to be neighbors, friends, and family. He saw me not as David Duke’s guy, but as the president of our civic association.”
Knight continued, “Now, at the time, I was a prominent person in state politics. I was on the radio, I was doing campaigns. Steve knew who I was, but I don’t think he held it against me. He knew I lived by his street and that I was active in our community. And I didn’t see a problem with having him speak.”
“Steve came in early on the first day of EURO, spoke for about 15 minutes, and he left,” Knight recalled. “He didn’t hear David speak remotely to the crowd.” Knight also said that he does not have video of Scalise’s remarks nor does he know if video of the speech exists.
David Duke is a despicable person because of his personal viewpoints on race and Jews and all that entails, there is no question about that. The man is a former Metairie city councilman and pursued elected offices, including Governor of Louisiana before deciding to move to Russia. That's right, Russia. Any elected official should be held accountable for associating with David Duke. This, however, is not a story that fits that narrative.
The media is all too happy to pursue stories that do not end well for Republican elected officials. This is just the latest example. Scalise has made a statement explaining this speech and disassociating himself from the group. There is no indication that he knew enough about the group to support them. He was accepting an invitation to speak to a local group of business men and neighborhood people in the suburb where he resided and represented in the Louisiana State House. Politicians with aspirations to run for higher office speak to anyone and everyone who invite them to do so, that's how campaigning works.
I hope Scalise survives this ordeal. Obviously someone had a political score to settle and decided now was the time to do it, as Scalise took the position of House Majority Whip. He took responsibility for the speech right away. I hope Speaker Boehner supports him.
And, let's hope that Scalise does a bit more research into the background of organizations and groups requesting his speeches in the future.