Knights of the Klu Klux Klan founder David Duke defended the embattled Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Tuesday, telling media that he has met with Democratic legislators at least 50 times over the course of his political career.
“Why is Scalise being singled out? I don’t know. He was just going there, obviously, to tell voters about some of his initiatives on some tax matters,” a “flabbergasted” Duke told Fusion.net. “That’s what it’s all about. And I think it’s insane, this whole process.” Duke added that he met with many Republican and Democratic legislators in Louisiana politics, rubbing shoulders with everyone at events ranging from formal conferences to children’s birthday parties. If media continued to “make hay” of the Scalise scandal, Duke warned, he would release a list of every politician with whom he has had ties.
Twelve years ago, one of Duke’s top associates reportedly invited then-state representative Scalise to speak at the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), which has since been branded as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. But whether or not Scalise did, in fact, give a speech about middle class tax cuts for a white nationalist organization is unclear — Scalise issued a statement apologizing for giving a speech to EURO, calling it “a mistake I regret.” But Duke’s associate, Kenny Knight, told Bloomberg News that Scalise gave a speech to a civics group hours before the EURO conference took place, calling it a “crossover in the hospitality room”:
Kenny Knight, the former campaign manager for onetime Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, said in an interview that he invited Scalise to speak to the civic group in the same hotel room used by Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization, but that it took place hours before the start of the white nationalists’ meeting. Knight said he secured the hotel facilities for Duke’s group, then invited the civic association, which he says he led, to meet about a string of neighborhood break-ins and other local issues while enjoying some of the coffee and cookies set out for Duke’s group.
Adding to the confusion, a Scalise aide told the Washington Post that the Congressman “appeared” at the EURO convention. Scalise himself gave an exclusive interview to the Times-Picayune, saying he did not remember speaking at the event and expressing his disgust with EURO.
“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.
While House Speaker John Boehner (R) supports Scalise, other prominent Republicans have slammed him — most notably former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who called “defense of this last decade) of racist action is disgusting and wrong” in a Facebook post. Palin also blasted President Barack Obama’s “immoral” association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright of “God Damn American” infamy and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers: “Do political ‘leaders’ think Americans are so stupid we don’t recognize the despicable double standard here, and that we’re so weakly complacent that we’ll put up with this?”
Follow Katie on Twitter: @k_mcq. Email her at email@example.com.