House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third-highest ranked Republican in the House of Representatives, is under fire after he reportedly attended a civil rights workshop organized by a group of alleged white supremacists.
David Duke, the then-president of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard-turned-former Louisiana state representative, confirmed to ABC that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise spoke at a civil rights workshop he organized in 2002, but says Scalise may not have known who he was addressing.
"Steve Scalise came in to speak on, I think, a tax issue and many of the people there were his constituents so you know whether he understood that it was my meeting or not, I don't know," Duke told ABC News in a phone call Monday night. "I can't, you know, I can't say that he did or did not."
The Southern Poverty Law Center considers EURO "extremists."
The speaking engagement was first reported by a blogger.
Another speaker at the workshop, Ron Doggett, who was billed at the time as the EURO Virginia State president, also told ABC that he remembers a local politician named “Steve” had delivered remarks but did not attend any other potion of the workshop, leaving quickly after he concluded his address.
Both sources recalled few details of the 2002 event beyond the future House majority whip delivering a message about sticking to conservative values regarding a tax issue before the Louisiana State House, where Scalise served at the time. Both said that Scalise did not say anything racist or particularly memorable.
Scalise himself says he doesn't remember attending the event.
"Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints. In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families," Moira Smith, a spokeswoman to Scalise, wrote in an email. "He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic."
Doggett says this was the first event the group held, and only about 30 people attended the two-day workshop. Scalise was elected to Congress six years later.
Duke was emphatic that none of the speakers were paid to address the workshop, which Doggett separately described as "organizational, not ideological."
Duke participated in the workshop via video-conference from Moscow.
Duke, who says he has never donated, endorsed or politically supported Scalise, adds he strongly disagrees with many of Scalise’s political views, especially regarding his support for Israel.