Louisiana politicians offer bipartisan backing for Steve Scalise

Posted at 11:38 AM, Dec 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Louisiana delegation is offering bipartisan support to Rep. Steve Scalise, who is embroiled in scandal surrounding his 2002 address to a white supremacist forum.

WASHINGTON — The Louisiana delegation is offering bipartisan support to Rep. Steve Scalise, who is embroiled in scandal surrounding his 2002 address to a white supremacist forum.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the lone Democrat in Louisiana’s House delegation, offered his full-throated support to the congressman in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune Monday night.

“I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” Richmond, who is African American, told the paper. “Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character.”

He added: “I am not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family,” Richmond said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, also backed the congressman in a statement.

“I know Congressman Scalise to be a good man who is fair-minded and kindhearted. I’m confident he absolutely rejects racism in all its forms,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement.

A local Louisiana blog reported this weekend on blog posts and documents revealing that Scalise spoke at a 2002 event for the National/International EURO Workshop on Civil Rights, a white nationalist organization founded by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The controversy surrounding his appearance at the event has raised questions over whether Scalise will continue to serve as Majority Whip, the third-ranking position in House leadership. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, have remained silent on the situation since the news broke.

Scalise has disavowed the group’s beliefs and said he wasn’t aware of them when he spoke at the forum. In an interview with the Times-Picayune, Scalise chalked up the misunderstanding to a staff flub.

“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,” he said.

He added: “I had one person that was working for me. When someone called and asked me to speak, I would go. I was, in no way, affiliated with that group or the other groups I was talking to.”

CNN has learned that the staffer at the time was Cameron Henry, who currently represents Scalise’s former state House seat. Henry rushed CNN off the phone Monday night and declined to discuss the situation, but did not deny his work for the congressman.

Henry’s brother, Charles Henry, is Scalise’s current chief of staff. Neither responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.

But Democrats were already taking aim at Scalise on Tuesday morning, and trying to goad House leadership into weighing in.

“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong. While David Duke defends Scalise, Speaker Boehner and Leader McCarthy are refusing to condemn Scalise’s choice of allies,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Josh Schwerin.

Schwerin said the incident made it “clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”

“Republicans are off to a banner start for their new Congress — on the path to break their own record for least popular Congress in history,” he added.