BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Democratic Party released the following statement from Executive Director Stephen Handwerk on today’s revelation that Congressman Steve Scalise has acknowledged addressing a conference of white nationalist leaders in 2002:
“It’s disturbing to learn that Congressman Scalise has admitted that he spoke to an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a hate group and the Anti-Defamation League characterizes as anti-Semitic.
“It’s even more disturbing to hear that his allies are trying to sweep this incident under the rug by blaming Scalise’s staff and claiming the then-state representative didn’t know the group’s ideology. That’s ridiculous. There were media reports running up to the event that made it crystal clear who was going to be the highlight — David Duke, a prominent Louisiana Republican that made an unsuccessful run for governor just a few years before and represented Scalise’s home parish in the state legislature in the 1980s. If someone in Louisiana didn’t know about David Duke’s beliefs in 2002, they must have been hiding under a very large rock somewhere.
“Which leads to some uncomfortable questions… Who exactly invited Scalise in the first place? Was it David Duke? Duke addressed the group via tele-conference. Wasn’t Scalise present during Duke’s remarks? And what exactly did Scalise say that so impressed the attendees that they were raving about his appearance several years later? Has he accepted any subsequent invitations from the group? Has he accepted any campaign contributions from the organization’s members? Voters deserve answers to these questions.
“I wish I could attribute Scalise’s appearance to ignorance or ineptitude, but his excuses ring hollow. The congressman should address this controversy for once and for all, in person, not through allies, spokespeople and press statements, and he should apologize for helping to legitimize a group that should be marginalized and denigrated, not wooed by elected officials. This is a serious stain on Scalise’s record as a public servant, that he spoke to a hate group and now lacks the courage to face the voters and make amends for such an egregious lapse in judgment.”