The editorial boards of two major newspapers, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune, have called on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise to resign his post in House GOP leadership after Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy came out in a last-ditch bid to save Scalise on Tuesday.
USA Today argued that Scalise’s longtime relationship with Kenneth Knight, the top political hand to former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, damages GOP efforts to reach out to minority voters heading into the crucial 2016 presidential election cycle. USA Today’s Editorial Board wrote:
To be politically viable, Republicans desperately need to attract a [sic] more minority voters. Their troubles doing so explain why they lost the popular vote for president in five of the past six elections, why they start the 2016 cycle at a disadvantage, and why many state races will get a lot tougher for them in the future as the nation continues to diversify.
Yet their push to make the necessary changes has been halting at best. They spent much of the past five years attacking President Obama with a ferocity that has turned off many ethnic voters. And they spent much of the past two years squabbling over, and ultimately rejecting, comprehensive immigration reform, a measure that could have helped them make inroads with Latino voters.
USA Today specifically called on Scalise to resign and, if he cared about Republicans, he’d leave leadership immediately. USA Today wrote:
Needless to say, this will not be good for the GOP. If Scalise had a sense for what is in the best interest of his party, he would step aside before formally assuming his position in January.
That might be unlikely to happen, however. Scalise responded by asserting that he was unaware of the nature of the group, a claim that stretches credulity for any savvy politician working his home turf. The group was founded by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a former candidate for governor of Louisiana.
While the USA Today editorial also said that Scalise “is an apt symbol for the GOP’s problem with minority voters, and its own internal struggles for direction,” it attempts to frame his political beliefs as aligned with Tea Party conservatism—something that is not true.
“He is a staunch conservative with a voting record utterly lacking in centrist or pragmatic positions,” USA Today wrote, adding later that the “Scalise wing of the party” includes “many who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement, as well as other social conservatives.”
Scalise is not a Tea Partier or conservative, despite his efforts to paint himself as one. He is, in fact, an establishment Republican. As Breitbart News detailed as he whipped votes to help enable the passage of the 1,774-page $1.1 trillion so-called “cromnibus” spending bill just a couple weeks ago—a bill that funds, in its entirety, President Obama’s executive amnesty—Scalise is in political trouble from real conservatives back home.
A potential conservative primary challenger to him, if he survives this nightmare of a scandal, would be Tea Partier and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness. That story was highlighted by Tea Party movement leader, 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin—who ripped Scalise for his efforts, and warned of repercussions to come in the next elections because of them.
In its calls for Scalise to resign, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board questions the legitimacy of Scalise’s story since the news broke—and whether he’s telling the truth.
“Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, says he made an innocent mistake in speaking to a white supremacist conference in 2002. How was he to know that the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) was a collection of racists and neo-Nazis?” the Chicago Tribune wrote.
“For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” the Tribune quotes Scalise as saying. “I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.”
“Why, he even spoke to the League of Women Voters, even though its ‘a pretty liberal group,’” the Tribune added. “Scalise says he lacked the staff to vet organizations like EURO and ‘was without the advantages of a tool like Google’ because ‘those tools weren’t available back then.’”
The Chicago Tribune added that Scalise’s “denials are pretty hard to believe,” and then thoroughly debunked each of them.
“In the first place, Google and other search engines were widely used in 2002,” the Tribune wrote.
The nature of the group was apparent even to the minor-league Iowa Cubs. In town to play the New Orleans Zephyrs, they decided to stay at a different hotel because of the nature of the gathering at the suburban Best Western Landmark — which publicly disassociated itself from EURO. In the second, Scalise didn’t need the Internet to know what he was dealing with. Former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana state legislator David Duke, who founded EURO, says Scalise was invited by Duke’s campaign manager, Kenny Knight. ‘Kenny knew Scalise, Scalise knew Kenny,’ Duke told The Washington Post. ‘They were friendly.’
The Tribune went on to write that by “playing footsie with this group” Scalise has “disqualified himself from a position of leadership in a party that needs to do a better job of understanding and addressing the suspicions it arouses among many minority Americans.”