Essentially (an excellent summation of the events is here), the Republican was invited 12 years ago to give a speech to a civic association in Metairie by his next-door neighbor who ran the group. What he didn’t know what the same guy also headed a small group that endorsed former state Rep. David Duke’s white supremacist philosophies and had booked in the same room later that day a meeting of the group. The room had no paraphernalia regarding that group visible at the time, and while the majority of the audience that heard Scalise’s 15-minute speech on state and local issues dealing with taxation, a pitch he apparently gave often that year as the state House of which he then was a member was dealing with controversial changes, some participants from the other group also wandered in. Joining Scalise were representatives of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the American Red Cross.
Scalise did not remember the event (not surprisingly given its datedness and that he probably has spoken at thousands of similar events), and upon jogging his memory really only recalled the subject matter and that he saw no visible sign that any white supremacists lurked about. Even if he had known the group would be using the room later, he didn’t know specifics about the group, with this lack of knowledge being commonplace among Louisiana politicians (if former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston is any indicator), with the only public information about it apparently having been circulated in a lightly-read local shopper. The rest of the details reported in the media were filled in by the guy who invited him. This was why he made a blanket apology about the appearance even as he didn’t know of the presence of group members at the time.
Contrast this with the alternative version that the more fevered section of the political left has offered: Scalise knew of the group and went specifically to talk to them in any event knowing that or learning upon it at his arrival, despite knowing that any politician that willingly associated with Duke or his organization (Duke himself has said there is absolutely no relationship between him and Scalise) would be committing political suicide. Needless to say, this version seems highly implausible while the other appears quite reasonable, backed by the various character references about his personal life that Scalise has received since the reporting began from politicians on both sides of the aisle and his subsequent policy advocacy that makes it obvious the tremendous cognitive dissonance that Scalise would have to engage in for that latter story to represent reality.
But apparently some on the left seem quite willing to endure that dissonance, or alternatively ignore the inconvenient facts in order to permit faith in that interpretation. Interestingly, that has been limited to the fringe left, with the story itself apparently very old news shopped by a disgruntled representative of the Democrats’ Angry Left branch and former candidate years ago against Scalise, knowing then it was too thin a reed on which to make any impact in a campaign but now during a slow news period figured it could gain attention, that found a willing dupe proven eager to become the Louisiana left’s online version of the Weekly World News. Only a few and far leftists have reacted by calling for Scalise to exit his leadership position in the House and/or resign his seat, most prominently the merchandisers of intolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
More centrist and established Democrat interests outside the state have remained silent on this, knowing full well the phoniness of the extremist interpretation but at the same time welcoming such a development because anything negative about the GOP, no matter how outlandish, helps them. And with the nutjobs’ promulgation of it this explains why the story is here, why it was publicized, and why now.
Nationally, six years of the least-restrained liberal governance in history has put the country at a tipping point where the 2016 election outcomes could signal a move towards a conservative era for some time to come, with huge Republican majorities overall at the state level, control of Congress, and indicators that such power will percolate into the White House and more broadly across the federal government. In Louisiana, Democrats lie in tatters with no majorities in any state political institution with elections next year more likely to increase Republicans power than decrease it. Simply, the left is losing the battle of ideas in both of these venues and from its perspective anything goes to try to prevent further erosion of its power, aided in knowing that a friendly media will present any calumnies which they don’t have to believe but which will give them an out to publicize by claiming they must report on controversies.
At the state level, the choices are either to move away from the far left that state Democrats have embraced or to double down on what has put them in a precarious position and try to distract from that. To date, the state party shows no sign of moderation and at least the hacks behind this story are trying to drive forward the distraction process in creating a false narrative for the simple that seeks character assassination of Republicans, no matter how ludicrously. If we have learned anything about this incident, it is that these unhinged Democrats are more than ready to open fire and to impoverish political discourse in their quest to claw back power.