Steve Scalise And The KKK: An Uncomfortable Match Made In Louisiana

Steve ScaliseThe Steve Scalise story just keeps getting more and more interesting. It certainly hasn’t helped him that Kenny Knight, an admitted racist and close associate of David Duke, has tried to make excuses for him and say that Scalise didn’t speak to that Neo-Nazi conference in New Orleans back in 2002. By the way, this is the same convention of white supremacists that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has personally admitted to speaking at, and has apologized for.

Instead of accepting the apology and admission from Scalise, conservatives have instead accepted the words of Kenny Knight that Steve Scalise addressed a neighborhood organization that has since been found to have never existed. Perhaps they shouldn’t have tried to make excuses and counter-accusations for the House Majority Whip, just because a “liberal blogger” (as Lamar White, Jr. has been referred to) was the one who broke the story.

If conservatives hadn’t tried to make excuses for Scalise and attack the source of it, the story might have gone away and we would probably be talking about something else in Washington, D.C. – but now it just becomes one uncomfortable, embarrassing revelation after another concerning his past as a state legislator. From The Hill:

Six years before he spoke to a white supremacist group, while he was a state legislator, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted against a resolution apologizing for slavery, according to a 1996 article from New Orleans’s Times-Picayune.

Scalise later backed a watered-down version that expressed “regret” for slavery. But the article identifies him as one of two lawmakers on the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee who tried to kill the original resolution, which apologized to African-Americans for the state’s role “in the establishment and maintenance of the institution of slavery.”

According to the paper, Scalise argued that there was no reason to apologize for something that had been done more than a century ago, before he was born.

“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise is quoted as saying in the newspaper. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.” (Source)

Ok, so that was way back in the mid-1990s and before he addressed the organization run by David Duke. Maybe after walking out of that convention in 2002, Steve Scalise had a change of heart – or perhaps these were just a couple of incidents involving a young, idealistic lawmaker who didn’t want to upset his constituents. But wait, there’s more:

Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, has apologized for participating in the event, blaming it on a limited staff that didn’t properly vet the hate group. At a news conference at the Capitol last week, he made clear that he rejects “bigotry of all forms.”

But two years after that speech, in 2004, as a state representative, Scalise also voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a state holiday. He voted against a similar measure in 1999.

GOP sources have said Scalise opposed the cost of creating another holiday, but no one from Team Scalise have gone on record to explain the votes. (Source)

Steve Scalise has a lot of explaining to do. You see, this is no longer about a state representative that had an ill-advised political relationship with members of a white supremacy organization. As Lamar stated, he knew EXACTLY what that conference was about when he walked in there, and considering his past associations and votes, this wouldn’t have made him uncomfortable at all.

Representative Scalise would have walked into a room filled with prominently placed Confederate flags, a dais that featured the groups logo and name, several tables placed along the sides of the room selling neo-Nazi paraphernalia and literature, and a throng of at least 50 people, 80% of whom were men, dressed in neo-Nazi attire. This was most definitely not a civic association meeting for a non-existent civic association. (Source)

A heavily armed white trooper menacing a protest march through Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1965. Matt Heron

A heavily armed white trooper menacing a protest march through Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1965. Matt Heron

House Majority Whip Scalise, as recently as 10 years ago, had a solid history of voting as a Louisiana state legislator in a manner that was sympathetic to the wishes of Neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacy organizations. When Scalise was first elected to Congress, he represented a district that had documented Klan activity as recently as 2009. Prior to the 2010 redrawing of Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, the city of Bogalusa (a hotbed of Klan activity in the 1960s) lay solidly within the district.

To this day, the murder of a black Washington Parish deputy in 1965 remains unsolved. In 1959, Mack Charles Parker died in what has been referred to as “last classical lynching in America,” near Bogalusa, Louisiana which was known at the time as a KKK stronghold. What do these murders and Scalise have in common? Well, Steve Scalise was born in New Orleans and represented the Metairie area, not Washington Parish, in both the state legislature and state senate. He also wasn’t even born yet when both of the murders happened.

Louisiana's 1st Congressional District before and after 2010 redistricting. (Image via Times Picayune)

Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District before and after 2010 redistricting. (Image via Times Picayune)

What is worth pointing out though is that prior to the 2010 changes to Louisiana’s congressional districts, the 1st district lay mostly on the northern side of Lake Pontchartrain, an area that included Bogalusa, and still includes Mandeville where David Duke’s Neo-Nazi organization is/was based. Metairie, where both Scalise and Kenny Knight are from, is a very small portion of the district on the south side of the lake near the New Orleans International Airport.

So here’s what I think – Scalise voted the way he did because he knew he had to in order to get votes and donations from KKK-affiliated individuals. He had to bow to the wishes of people like David Duke or Kenny Knight if he wanted to be eventually elected to Congress in what was then the 1st District. Steve Scalise may very well not be a racist and he has made the blanket statement “I reject bigotry in all forms,” but you will notice he has not, and likely will not, specifically single out the KKK or David Duke’s organization. While the Republican Party hasn’t always pandered to the wishes of the far right nationwide, Steve Scalise was apparently winking at them since day one.


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