This is expected but unfortunate.
Voters of Louisiana and the American people deserve more than what media hacks and spin artists want us to believe. Those defending Scalise are now claiming he is a victim of a manufactured controversy created to smear Scalise. Some of the more strident ones are claiming that the facts have been presented, the case is closed, there are no other facts or interpretation of facts to the contrary than those they are now pumping out over the Internet.
Last week, Lamar White broke the story that has now received national attention and that dredged up the races bones of David Duke and his comrades.
The initial narrative appeared to be that the then-Louisiana legislator Steve Scalise spoke to a racist-neo-Nazi organization at the Landmark hotel back in 2002.
Scalise, when confronted, admitted attending the event but claiming he could remember it.
On Wednesday, I personally raised the question, how could he admit to a speech which he said he could not remember giving.
On Thursday, the online publication Slate and others began to raise this inconsistency and posited the possibility that Scalise did not speak at the meeting at all but instead spoke to a neighborhood group. I likewise felt there was a possible answer to this mystery that was making such national noise.
Immediately, some conservative bloggers and activists began to circle the wagons, slammed Lamar White and others for even thinking that there was a connection between Scalise and David Duke’s top aide, Kenny Knight, and their wacko group Euro.
Suddenly, their collective narrative became that there is no issue, no dispute, the facts are crystal clear. The mantra has become Steve Scalise has been vindicated, the media and the left have been villified for even thinking that something could be amiss.
That story-line has been framed by many in various online discussions, to claim thusly:
Scalise got invited to address a neighborhood association, not a racist group. He, along with a representative of the Red Cross and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office addressed the meeting.
The speech was given to the association in a room that was used as a hospitality suite for the EURO conference.
Scalise left the event and never addressed the actual conference.
The underlying facts behind this story-line has been clumsily provided by Knight himself and in part, his former girlfriend. However, there are significant discrepancies. If one accepts the truth of Knights statements, then perhaps they should accept all of this statements and not just cherry pick those which help the narrative they prefer.
Bob Mann has summarized some of these inconsistencies:
1. Scalise has already acknowledged that he spoke to EURO’s conference. To quote the Washington Post:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white-supremacist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.
2. Knight told a slightly different story to the Washington Post:
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, said in an interview Tuesday that he personally invited House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to speak to a 2002 gathering of white supremacists.
“He was my neighbor,” Knight said of Scalise, who was serving as a state representative at the time of the conference. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”
To its credit, the Times-Picayune noted this discrepancy in Knight’s revised story.
3. Knight falsely told the Times-Picayune that he had nothing at all to do with EURO.
Incorporation papers filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office in 2000 listed Knight as the organization’s treasurer (hat tip to an alert reader for digging up this info). The group was then known as the National Organization for European-American Rights, but later changed its name to EURO.
In addition to these points, there is another piece of evidence that appears to directly contradict those who are persistent in defending Scalise and their argument that the congressman is being maligned.
"But Corey Ortis, who was a Louisiana representative for the organization from 2000 to 2004, said he attended the 2002 conference to hear from leaders of their movement, not Mr. Scalise. Still, from what he recalls of the event, Mr. Scalise gave a 10-to-15-minute presentation that was “the typical mainstream Republican thing” and not “too far right.”
“He touched on how America was founded on Christian principles, Christian men who founded this country, and how it was believed it would go forward
Assuming the accuracy of Mr. Otis’s recollection, let us put his interview statement in perspective. Steve Scalise has said that at the time of the 2002 event, he gave speeches about taxes and the Stelly plan, a controversial tax plan. There are also claims that he spoke about slush funds and HUD, two issues that were being associated with liberal and black-controlled governments.
Days after the scandal surfaced, Kenny Knight now says that Scalise talked to a neighborhood group, not the main event in another room. Yet, the only person discussing the actual event, Ortism has said that Scalise talked to the group about the United States being a Christian nation. Glory be! What does maintaining a Christian nation have to do with Stelly or HUD? More so, how would Christian Nation be relevant to a neighborhood association?
As much as many of us want to believe there is no controversy, no issues of fact, the matter is still clearly in dispute.
Just because political partisans and conservative bloggers claim this is a manufactured event and that Scalise is being slandered does not make it so. Nor, does it mean that Steve Scalise is a racist or that he no longer deserves to be the house whip, claims that some on the left insist upon making.
In my books, Steve Scalise is a good person, and I hope has a good political future helping the State of Louisiana, in Congress, and perhaps, even as a future US Senator.
But if Scalise is monitoring the media to see which way the wind is blowing on the story, it is time for him to face the wind and stop huddling from it. It is time for him to hold a press conference and to field questions and to provide honest, straightforward answers.
It is not a matter of politics, it is a question of determining the truth. The issue is whether Steve Scalise is currently trustworthy about what occurred when he spoke at the Landmark hotel, a site closely associated with Duke at that time, after the neo-nazi's top dog invited him to do so.
As of late, it appears that some of our elected officials, prefer to respond to serious controversies by releasing press statements, not answering questions at all, hoping to kick the can of controversy and then waiting until public interest in any "scandal trash" wanes. Unfortunately, some of our top Louisiana government officials have mastered this crises management approach, successfully.
I’m hoping that Scalise does not follow this path of least resistence of taking the political route rather than the transparent one. I believe that he is too good of a person to do so.