Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Monday defended his colleague Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) after reports emerged that he spoke at a conference linked to David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
King told the Washington Post that many conservatives lawmakers would stand by Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, after it was revealed that Scalise gave a speech at white nationalists conference when he was a state lawmaker in 2002.
The congressman suggested Scalise was following the example of Jesus by appearing at the racist event.
“Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners,” King explained. “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, it’s the sick. Given that piece of Scripture, and understanding that Scalise probably wasn’t staffed thoroughly, I could understand how something like this happened. But I know his heart, I’ve painted houses with him post-Katrina, and I know he is a good man.”
Scalise told the Times-Picayune that he hadn’t known the conference was hosted by a white nationalist group.
“I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” Scalise said.
The group, called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, serves “primarily as a vehicle to publicize Duke’s writing and sell his books,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.