They just might start calling Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) “The Teflon Whip.” A bold attempt by Democrats to smear Scalise as a racist has completely blown up, with even top Louisiana Democrats including prominent Rep. Cedric Richmond coming to his defense.
In 2002, then-state Rep. Scalise was invited to briefly speak to the Jefferson Heights Civic Association by Kenny Knight, who was a personal friend of David Duke, the notorious white supremacist and founder of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Knight was also Scalise’s next-door neighbor. Knight had done Duke a favor by booking a hotel conference room for a series of EURO meetings, and Knight also arranged to have the Jefferson Heights Civic Association meeting in the same room, two hours before the EURO event was scheduled to start. Although Kenny Knight was friends with both Duke and Scalise, the Jefferson Heights Civic Association and EURO had no affiliation with one another, and the meetings were completely separate events.
It was this rather innocuous incident that was twisted into the sensational headline, “House Majority Whip Steve Scalise Was Reportedly an Honored Guest at 2002 International White Supremacist Convention” by liberal Louisiana blogger Lamar White, Jr. White’s story was based on several decade-old posts on white supremacist bulletin boards by a man who claimed to attend the 2002 EURO convention and remembered Scalise speaking. (Apparently White failed to verify any of this information with other sources before publishing his blog. He may have a bright future as a journalist for Rolling Stone.)
Liberal social media eagerly pounced on this bit of fresh meat, because all right-thinking people know that every Republican is a closet racist. Soon MSNBC was running with the story, and it looked like Rep. Scalise’s days were numbered. Eric Ericson of RedState.com called for Scalise to resign, as did a number of other conservative mouthpieces.
But then something interesting happened. Louisiana Democrats including State Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans), Jeb Bruneau (son of long-time Democrat state legislator Peppi Bruneau) and State Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) rushed to Scalise’s defense. In a statement, Rep. Richmond said, “I don’t think Steve has a racist bone in his body. I’m not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family.” And on his Facebook wall, Rep. Arnold added, “I know 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.”
After Kenny Knight was interviewed by Bloomberg News (something that was apparently too difficult for Lamar White), the story began to fall apart. More research by conservative Louisiana blogger Scott McKay revealed that the EURO convention story was actually put together by Democrat activist Gilda Reed and shopped around six years ago by her son Robert. Gilda Reed was Steve Scaliese’s Democrat opponent in the 2006 special election to fill Bobby Jindal’s seat when he was elected governor. Scaliese handed Reed a 73-23 shellacking in that election. Apparently the Reeds still hold a grudge.
And not to be denied his 5 minutes of fame, David Duke released a statement threatening to expose numerous lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, who really had met with him in support of his white supremacist agenda, if Republican leadership failed to support Scalise. If he isn’t bluffing, I’d really like to see his list.
Although conservative leadership almost always disappoints, it was good to see Speaker Boehner stand up for Scalise until all the facts were known. And it was refreshing for Louisiana Democrats to risk some political capital in order to support someone that they had long known to be a good man. But to the liberal bloggers and activists who — I’ll guarantee you — had never even heard of Rep. Scalise, yet piled onto the mud-slinging RAAAAAACIST!!! bandwagon solely based on political party affiliation, shame on you. Maybe you’ll understand now why your side keeps losing.