Suddenly the racist conference was not so racist after all!
At this point, it doesn’t even matter what the truth is. The damage has been done. A man’s reputation has been tainted to say the least. All it took was one blogger’s guilt by association claim, and the rest is history.
It turns out, for those who care, that he didn’t attend the conference that everyone thought he attended. He attended a Jefferson Heights Civic Association meeting, which took place in the same hotel as and just a couple hours before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization conference, a group started by white nationalist David Duke.
Was there an association? Well, sure. It took place in the same hotel, but that’s the extent of the association. The Jefferson Heights Civic Association had nothing to do with EURO, even though both events were organized by the same guy Kenny Knight. Knight served as a political advisor to Duke in the 80’s and 90’s and stated he organized the EURO meeting as a favor to Duke. Knight was also apparently neighbors with Scalise and decided to organize his local group at the same place where Scalise could address his constituents. Their being neighbors was the extent of their personal relationship. Other than that, Scalise did receive a $1,000 donation from Knight during one of his campaigns. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported:
Reports that Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, gave a speech to a white nationalist conference connected with David Duke in 2002 are not accurate, the man who organized the events said Wednesday (Dec. 31).
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to Duke, said Scalise spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association — not affiliated with the European-American Unity and Rights conference that was held in the same Metairie hotel — two-and-a-half hours before the white nationalist event started.
Barbara Noble, who was dating Knight and said she attended the meeting, also said Wednesday that Scalise spoke to the civic group, not EURO.
Scalise apologized this week for speaking to the EURO group, although he said he was unaware of the connections or the group’s white supremacy ideology. Scalise has come under fire from some Democratic leaders and others, including calls for him to step down from his leadership position.
Knight said he rented and paid for the hotel conference room for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by Duke. Since he had already paid for the space, Knight said, he decided to also hold his local civic association meeting at the Metairie hotel. He stressed that the two gatherings were not connected.
“Steve Scalise did not address a EURO conference. … The conference was two-and-a-half hours later,” Knight said.
During an interview Monday night, Scalise said he had no recollection of speaking at the EURO conference, but acknowledged he was doing several talks to various groups at the time and didn’t remember every meeting he addressed.
People will say that he should have given that $1,000 back to Knight because of Knight’s ties to Duke. I know that sounds like a great and righteous idea, but is that something that all political candidates do? Did Obama do that with every questionable donation? Did he even know which donations were “questionable?” Did Romney do it? Do we really expect political candidates to sift through each donation and launch an investigation into each donor? Why is it that we’re not supposed to care about the Romneys and the Obamas and all the donations they got from shady characters, but other times like in Scalise’s case it’s supposed to shock us and call for his resignation?
I don’t have any reason to believe that Scalise is lying. In reality, there isn’t a whole lot a politician can do when scandalous rumors surface that have no truth in them. Denying the rumors outright doesn’t always help, because those who have already made up their mind will claim that you’re obviously lying to cover yourself. And admitting that the rumors are true pretty much ensures that you’re going to have to resign.
I think Scalise did the best he could under the circumstances. He apologized, but said that he doesn’t remember every meeting he’s ever been to and noted that if he had known the group’s racist ties, he wouldn’t have spoken at the conference. Knight was right. No politician these days would be caught dead in the same room as David Duke. That’s political suicide.
Of course, this whole thing is silly. I’m sure Scalise doesn’t even remember speaking at this meeting twelve years ago. And even if he had spoken at the racist event, so what? If it bothers the constituents enough, let them vote him out of office.