Scalise’s racist choices embarrass Louisiana, Representative should resign from leadership

Brendan Lyman, Views Editor

The following is an opinion article, and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

In his book “The Last Song,” Nicholas Sparks writes, “what happens in the past, is in the past. But don’t be surprised if it comes back and haunts you.” If only Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) had heeded the cliche’s warning maybe he would not find himself in the current cycle of controversy.

Instead, Scalise, whose district includes Tulane’s Uptown campus, is attempting to explain how he spoke to the European-American Unity and Rights organization, an organization of white supremacists founded by infamous Ku Klux Klan leader and former Louisiana politician David Duke, in 2002 as a member of Louisiana’s legislature.

To exacerbate the situation, Scalise assumed the position of Majority Whip in August, making him the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. While Scalise has admitted to the mistake of speaking to EURO at a Metairie hotel, as first reported by political blogger Lamar White Jr., more information has emerged to cause serious skepticism about Scalise’s ability to remain Majority Whip.

Different narratives have emerged about how Scalise found himself speaking at a EURO Conference. Kenny Knight, Duke’s former campaign manager, treasurer of EURO, and Scalise’s neighbor in 2002, has said that Scalise did not speak to EURO, but rather the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, which had a meeting the morning of the EURO conference. As White and The Advocate’s Jeff Adelson point out, however, no such organization existed in 2002 according to official records, and no Jefferson Parish official knew of the organization.

To Scalise’s credit, however, he admitted to speaking to EURO, calling it “a mistake I regret.” Unfortunately for Scalise, though, the EURO speech is not the only questionable mark on his record.

Still as a member of Louisiana’s legislature, Scalise was one of six lawmakers to vote against making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a state holiday in 2004. The vote did not happen in a bygone era, either, as the vote was four years before Scalise was elected to Congress. Scalise also voted against the state holiday in 1999.

An additional controversial vote from Scalise’s time in the state legislature has emerged this week. Scalise, along with one other legislator, attempted to kill a resolution in the legislature that would have “apologize[d] to African-Americans for the state’s role in the establishment and maintenance of the institution of slavery” in 1996.

While the vote was on a largely symbolic measure, Scalise’s record produces serious concerns about his relationship with black people and minorities.

Then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) resigned from his leadership post in 2002 after praising Sen. Strom Thurmond for his anti-Civil Rights views during his presidential run in 1948. Scalise should follow Lott’s lead.  

The Louisiana congressional delegation has suffered multiple blows in leadership and seniority during the last 12 months, due in part to Sen. Landrieu and Rep. McAlister’s defeats. While Scalise’s resignation would be an additional blow to Louisiana, his current leadership position is untenable, and the benefit for the state and district is at best questionable. Scalise should resign from his position and limit the impact of another black eye on Louisiana’s reputation.

Brendan Lyman is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]