House Speaker John Boehner has thrown his full support behind his embattled ally, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, as more ties between Scalise and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke—including a nearly-decade long close relationship with the ex-KKK leader’s top aide—have emerged.
Boehner backed Scalise, as it became apparent that, if Scalise goes down over this scandal, his entire leadership team—and Boehner’s own Speakership—could be in jeopardy.
“More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate,” Boehner said. “Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our Whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also backed up Scalise, as it became public that Boehner could lose his Speakership over this, jeopardizing his own spot in GOP leadership.
“Congressman Scalise acknowledged he made a mistake and has condemned the views that organization espouses,” McCarthy said. “I’ve known him as a friend for many years and I know that he does not share the beliefs of that organization.”
Those statements come as two nationally syndicated conservative radio hosts—Mark Levin, via his Facebook page, and Sean Hannity, in an exclusive statement to Breitbart News—are demanding a clean sweep of House GOP leadership, pushing for Boehner, McCarthy, and Scalise to be removed by Republican members.
“GOP establishment a disastrous mess. Clean them out. Time for new leaders with conservative principles,” Levin said on Facebook about the Scalise scandal, adding that: “You RINOs need to do a much better job of vetting your leaders & candidates. After all, you’re the pros, right?”
Levin also said that Boehner is backing Scalise up a hundred percent because Scalise was involved in purging conservatives who were in the way of Boehner’s big government initiatives during his time as the chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
“Boehner all in for Scalise, and here’s why,” Levin said with a link to a previous posting on his website about Scalise’s role in helping Boehner eliminate conservative opposition via the RSC to his big government initiatives.
Hannity, a Fox News host, is specifically, in his exclusive statement to Breitbart News, calling on Boehner to be replaced with South Carolina’s wildly popular Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
“The American people need bold inspiring solutions to reverse the damaging policies of the President and his party. This is not a time for half measures,” Hannity said in an email. “It’s time for new dynamic leadership in the House of Representatives. Trey Gowdy is my choice for speaker. He has the ability to articulate and implement the changes needed to get the country on the right path.”
Hannity added that Gowdy has “a plan to balance the budget, secure the borders, push for energy independence and replace Obamacare with personal healthcare savings accounts,” while Boehner shuns conservative Republicans.
“John Boehner has snubbed and ignored conservatives for too long as evidenced by the recent cromnibus budget deal he made with Obama, Reid and Hoyer,” Hannity said. “It’s time he step aside for the good of country and the conservative movement.”
Boehner’s and McCarthy’s defense of Scalise came after top Democrats ripped them for remaining silent. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Boehner’s and McCarthy’s silence was telling. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said:
Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House. However, actions speak louder than whatever Steve Scalise said to that group in 2002. Just this year, House Republicans have refused to restore the Voting Rights Act or pass comprehensive immigration reform, and leading Republican members are now actively supporting in the federal courts efforts by another known extremist group, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is seeking to overturn the President’s immigration executive actions. Speaker Boehner’s silence on this matter is yet another example of his consistent failure to stand up to the most extreme elements of his party.”
Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee issued a statement earlier in the day rightfully noting that Scalise’s story was filled with holes. Elleithee said:
Yesterday, Steve Scalise tried to explain that he didn’t know he was speaking to a white supremacist group when he addressed them as a state legislator. Seriously? He didn’t know? The group was named the ‘European-American Unity and Rights Organization,’ it was founded by David Duke, and he was invited by two of Duke’s longtime associates. It doesn’t get much more clear than that. That weak attempt at an explanation doesn’t pass the smell test and raises far more questions than it answers. Does he not believe that speaking to an anti-semitic hate group legitimizes them and elevates their racist and divisive existence? How abhorrent does a group have to be to decline their invitation? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg — Rep. Scalise and all of Republican leadership need to start giving some real answers soon.
Aides to Boehner and McCarthy still haven’t answered specific questions about what their bosses knew and when they knew it, but perhaps even more troubling for them is that, as the two top House GOP officials rallied around Scalise, more damaging news emerged. It turns out that Scalise’s relationship with Duke’s top political hand, Kenneth Knight, was not just a flash in the pan at one specific event–it was a long-term relationship lasting several years, and involved the top aide to the former KKK head actually campaigning for Scalise on the ground in Louisiana to get him elected to the U.S. Congress. Also, in a twist of fate, by backing up Scalise, they’re actually siding with Duke—the former KKK Grand Wizard—who said Monday evening that he thinks Scalise shouldn’t face consequences like resignation over this.
A top GOP aide with longtime ties to the Louisiana GOP delegation told Breitbart News that rumors about Scalise’s close relationship with Duke’s top aide have been circling the rumor mill at high levels in Louisiana for years. The scandal surrounding Scalise isn’t the one event he spoke at—it’s the fact that he associated for years with people like Knight and Duke, despite knowing their racist backgrounds, and that those people influenced his political thoughts.
Another high-ranking GOP aide said that these developments about Scalise’s years-long relationship with the top official for the ex-KKK Grand Wizard will set back GOP efforts to approach black and minority communities.
“This is a huge distraction before we’re even in with the full majority, before we even start,” the aide said. “It’s shameful while so many in our party are trying to expand and make the party bigger, that you have something like this that pops up. It’s completely counterproductive to what so many in the House, Senate, governors and especially the RNC’s efforts to recruit new voices, new voters and new ideas in the Republican Party.”
George Rasley of Richard Viguerie’s ConservativeHQ told Breitbart News, too, that Scalise needs to vacate the GOP leadership slot immediately. Rasley said in an email
Steve Scalise is either too dumb to be Republican Whip, or just plain lying about his association with David Duke’s despicable racist organization. Over fifty years ago William F. Buckley, Jr. made equal rights and racial equality fundamental tenets of the modern conservative movement. Leave it to establishment Republicans like John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy to repudiate the wisdom of Buckley and the other founders of modern conservatism to promote a Klan-lover like Steve Scalise to the third ranking leadership position in the House Republican Conference. Keeping Steve Scalise as the House Republican Whip is an insult to every conservative and every American who believes that what matters is the content of one’s character, not the color of one’s skin.
Knight, Duke’s top political hand, admitted during a Tuesday interview with the Washington Post to donating $1,000 to Scalise’s congressional campaign in 200, and working actively to get Scalise elected in his 2008 campaign.
“This controversy, Steve Scalise being crucified, is unfortunate,” Knight told the Washington Post’s Bob Costa in the interview. “Steve Scalise is a good man and someone I’ve known for years and have made calls for when he ran for office. I’ve donated $1,000 to his House campaign. I’ve supported him because I like Steve Scalise and not because I’m working on behalf of David Duke, sending him secret messages. Steve was someone who I exchanged ideas with on politics. We wouldn’t talk about race or the Jewish question.”
Knight, Duke’s top political aide, was Scalise’s next-door neighbor and said Scalise was well aware of his politics. Knight also noted he asked Scalise to lead off the 2002 white supremacist conference.
“He [Scalise] was my neighbor,” Knight said. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”
But he doesn’t think Scalise saw him as David Duke’s top aide–just as a neighbor, even though he knew of Duke’s relationship with him.
“This all came about because I organized the EURO meeting for David Duke as a courtesy after he had moved to Russia,” Knight told the Post. “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.”
“Now, at the time, I was a prominent person in state politics,” Knight added. “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.”
Knight also said that the crowd Scalise spoke to was “people who are concerned about the survival of their race.” Duke himself, in a Monday evening interview with the Post, confirmed that his operation post-KKK had a close relationship with Scalise—and that Knight regularly briefed him on issues of importance to white supremacists.
“Scalise would communicate a lot with my campaign manager, Kenny Knight,” Duke said. “That is why he was invited and why he would come. Kenny knew Scalise, Scalise knew Kenny. They were friendly.”
“I think Scalise would talk to Kenny because he recognized how popular I was in his own district,” Duke added. “He knew that knowing what I was doing and saying wouldn’t be the worst thing politically. Kenny would keep Scalise up to date on my issues.”