(Updated; see at the bottom)
…which is hardly shocking given his track record of false attacks and smears of people he disagrees with politically.
First, while the national media took the opportunity to turn a 12-year old story with almost no meat on its bones – the fact that Rep. Steve Scalise gave a 2002 address on state fiscal policy issues to a group of people at a venue wherein a David Duke-affiliated white power organization was having a conference – into a “scandal” from which Scalise is supposed to now resign as the House Majority Whip, locally it has been quite interesting that Louisiana’s most prominent Democrat elected official, Rep. Cedric Richmond, was quoted as saying there is no merit to the smears of his friend and fellow congressman.
“I don’t think Steve has a racist bone in his body,” said Richmond. “I’m not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family.”
Richmond wasn’t alone among Louisiana Democrats taking up for Scalise. State Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) had this to say on his Facebook…
Thank you Rep. Cedric Richmond for standing up for your colleague for over 15 years. Those who have not served do not understand the number of request to speak at events. The fact that you speak at an event 12 years ago does not mean you agree with ones agenda. Many times our legislative aide sets the calendar and we just show up to push our beliefs as to our agenda for a better state and ect. As a state legislator you work with one aide, you have a full time job and if you do your elected job right you do that full time also. You are criticized if you don’t attend public events and then you are criticized if you do. It is easy to take shots at someone 12 years later and hard to remember why or who asked you to speak at an event.
I have been honored and received awards by the most conservative groups in Louisiana and the most liberal groups in Louisiana, it does not mean I agree with their agenda at any given time.
I have known and served with both congressman for the past 13 years, I known Rep. Steve Scalise to be nothing but a staunch believer in conservative values. I have never seen him to be racist both in his service in the State Legislature nor in Congress.
What did he say at the speech? To me that is more important than that fact that he gave a speech. All reports currently talk about his speaking on tax reform issues not race.
One more item to pass along, this one from the son of former state legislator Peppi Bruneau and former legislative candidate in his own right Jeb Bruneau…
Those statements don’t seem to back up the tone of the original story posted by Lamar White at his blog Sunday, which seeks to associate Scalise with David Duke.
And published reports amid the frenzy this cooked-up story has generated have fleshed out the falsity of that association. Duke himself was quoted as saying he never had a relationship with Scalise, though his former campaign manager Kenny Knight, who as it happens was Scalise’s next-door neighbor, did carry on a friendly association with him.
In fact, Knight offered up to Bloomberg a characterization of Scalise’s speech at the “white supremacist” conference in question which greatly differs from what White presented…
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.
“I basically gave him a town-hall meeting to address constituents about legislation he was working on,” said Knight, 65. “There were also other people who spoke before the civic association that day. One was from the Red Cross who talked about CPR. Another was Steve Scalise and there was a member of the local sheriff’s department on instituting a crime watch group in our neighborhood. Steve and those folks spoke before the conference of EURO. It was not a EURO-sponsored event. I sponsored the event as president of the local civic association.”
Knight explained the Internet post of an apparent EURO attendee about Scalise’s speech as “crossover in the hospitality room.”
“Some of the EURO members who came from out of town came to the hospitality room and sat in the audience,” Knight said. “Maybe a handful of the 25 people or so in the room were from EURO. The rest were all people from the neighborhood.”
“Maybe I need to call his office,” Knight said. “Steve was in the room for 15 minutes. He was not aware, nor did I tell him, there was a EURO association meeting. I told him it was a gathering of the civic association.”
No doubt the story will now become that Steve Scalise carried on a friendly relationship with a Duke henchman…who was his next-door neighbor and the president of a local civic association in Scalise’s legislative district.
The story gets more and more ridiculous the further one peels it.
It turns out the story about Scalise’s purported white supremacist addresses which appeared at White’s blog didn’t come from White’s research but instead has been shopped around for months by a woman named Gilda Reed, a professor at UNO and a some-time contributor to the left-wing Daily Kos website, and her son Robert – whom our readers might recognize from this little nugget we put on display Monday…
Talking Points Memo had a congratulatory piece on the Reeds and their “score” against Scalise, which apparently is some sort of revenge for the 75-23 pasting the Congressman laid on Gilda Reed in the May 2008 special election for the LA-01 congressional seat vacated when Bobby Jindal ran for governor the previous year and won. From the TPM story…
“It’s he-said, she-said. That’s why the story has never been reported,” Gilda, a psychology instructor at the University of New Orleans, said. “Everybody down here, everybody in this district … they know that there are ties. It’s no secret. In fact that wins you more votes. That’s what (Scalise) ran on.”
And a bit more…
There was more damning information against Scalise, Robert said, but his mother refused to go negative or use any of it in their campaign. “I desperately wanted to use it,” Robert, who was her campaign manager, told TPM.
The state and national Democratic parties didn’t heavily invest in the race, and Scalise beat Gilda, 75 percent to 23 percent, in the May 3, 2008, election.
After that, the story faded — until Scalise was elected House Majority Whip in June and then re-elected to the post for a full two-year stint in November. After that re-election, Robert approached White, a liberal blogger who had earned some national attention this year after he appeared with Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and broke a scandalous story about Senator-elect Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
“I want justice to be done. I don’t like liars,” Robert said. “I don’t like people who misrepresent themselves or people who pander to neo-Nazi groups.”
“I could have let the nation know,” he added of possessing the information in the 2008 race, “and I didn’t.”
From their accounts to TPM, Robert shared the general information — that Scalise had spoken at the event of the Duke-backed group — but could not offer any more substantive evidence. The source apparently deleted the implicating photograph or otherwise could not recover it. White never spoke directly with the source; the Reeds served as a go-between.
With that tip, though, White pored through forums of the white supremacist website Stormfront and found the posts that placed Scalise at the event. Those served as the basis for his initial report, which in turn led to Scalise confirming his appearance after the story was picked up by the Washington Post, Politico and other major national news outlets.
In other words, we have a “major national story” arising out of old, unused campaign dirt by a hapless mother-son pair of left-wing nuts still smarting from a six-year-old trouncing which was never acted on before, and an eyewitness to Scalise’s appearance who actually made the invitation for him to speak has now come forward to say virtually nothing of the original story is accurate – that in fact Scalise was giving an innocuous fiscal policy speech he’d given countless times across the state to a local civic association audience in his own legislative district with no knowledge his audience would be comprised of conferees from a white nationalist organization that Scalise has had no evident association with.
We have spent this entire week wading through this supposed scandal, and there is zero proof that Scalise is culpable of the conduct White and the Reeds are accusing him of. In fact, the state’s most prominent black Democrat has repudiated White’s story and one of Louisiana’s most prominent Democrat legislators has similarly dismissed the allegations of Scalise’s racism.
Steve Scalise is owed an apology by Lamar White, and Louisiana is owed much better political discourse than this individual has provided.
UPDATE: Slate’s Betsy Woodruff went one further than the Kenny Knight denial that Scalise spoke to the EURO conference; she corroborated his story by also speaking to Barbara Noble, Knight’s girlfriend at the time who was also there.
This story is falling apart…
Knight said he set up a morning event for his own civic association in the hotel space before the EURO conference started. Though that event was in the conference’s hospitality room, it wasn’t at all related to the EURO event, he said.
“It was my room to do what I want with it,” he said.
Knight invited then–state Rep. Scalise as well as a representative from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and a person from the American Red Cross to speak to the civic association at the hotel. Knight said he thinks the Red Cross speaker was from a local chapter but didn’t remember specifically. You can play roulette online from this roulette.ag website as explained in this article roulette.ag roultte can be played for free. He also said he didn’t remember the names of either of the other speakers. The representative from the sheriff’s department spoke to attendees about a neighborhood watch program, and the person from the Red Cross discussed CPR techniques. Scalise also spoke.
“I wanted to reach out to him and give him an audience so he could talk to people from his district about legislation he was proposing,” Knight said. “I did that as a courtesy.”
Knight estimates that about two-thirds to three-quarters of the people in the hospitality room at the civic association meeting were local residents who weren’t there to attend the EURO event, and about one-third to one-quarter were EURO convention attendees who arrived early and filtered into the hospitality room to drink coffee and kill time.
“I don’t think Steve was aware that there was a small contingent of people who came and sat in the audience prior to the EURO meeting,” Knight said.
I asked Knight if there was a sign on the hospitality room indicating it had been reserved for the EURO conference.
“I think not,” Knight said. “I really truly believe, if there were any signs or banners up, Mr. Scalise would [have asked], ‘What is that?’ And he probably would have left. Because I don’t recall having any banners or signs up at all.”
Knight said that when he invited Scalise to speak to the civic association, he never mentioned that it would be held in the same room the EURO conference would later use or that some conference attendees may be present.
Barbara Noble, Knight’s then-girlfriend who was also present at the hotel event and who I spoke with separately, corroborated Knight’s account.
“[Scalise] was just up there for a few minutes, maybe 10, 15 at the most, and it was in the morning,” she said.
Noble said that there was no signage, banners, or mention of the EURO conference at the civic association event and that Scalise left immediately after giving his talk.
One wonders if Lamar White might consider a retraction of his story and an apology to Scalise in light of Woodruff’s reporting and yesterday’s Bloomberg piece. He’s being proven completely wrong.