Lessons of the Steve Scalise Debacle

AP Photo
AP Photo

The Steve Scalise controversy had a fairly simple resolution. When the accusation had emerged that he had spoken in 2002 to a white supremacist group associated with former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, he ought to have stepped aside temporarily and asked the House Republican leadership to conduct a full investigation. That would have confirmed that Republicans would not permit anyone to lead the party who kept such associations, and without punishing Scalise before the facts were known.

That did not happen. Scalise apologized but lost an opportunity to clear his name by admitting a mistake he may not, in fact, have made. The House GOP leadership jumped to defend him, with Speaker of the House John Boehner vouching for Scalise despite his alleged “error in judgment” (again, which seems not to have happened). Others demanded Scalise resign—along with the rest of the leadership. One Tea Party group urged everyone to “move on.” And many decried the media’s double standard.

That double standard is taken for granted. Barack Obama’s long-standing membership in, and donations to, Reverend Wright’s church of hate should have made him unelectable to any office, never mind the highest. Were it not for the media defending him, Obama’s 2008 run would have ended abruptly, and his Senate career as well. Yet what was at issue in the Scalise case was not the media’s double standard but what ought to be the Republicans’ single standard against bigotry—and against trial-by-media.

One group that was conspicuously silent throughout the Scalise drama was the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which said nothing on behalf of its members, even though Duke is notorious for his antisemitic views and hostility to Israel. (Attempts by Breitbart News to obtain comment were unsuccessful, apparently because many key leaders were on vacation.) That reticence turns out to have been the right course of action, albeit likely for the wrong reason. Hopefully, lessons have been learned.

Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.

Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak


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