The campaign manager of a Democrat who challenged U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana tipped off a blogger that the Republican lawmaker had spoken to a white supremacist group in 2002.
However, Democrat Gilda Reed did not expose the meeting during the 2008 special election for the House seat because she believed it would not sway the district’s conservative electorate.
“I felt strongly that it would not have walked,” Reed told Reuters on Wednesday. "I was running in a district with a lot of bigots."
She lost to Scalise by more than 50 points.
Reed's son and 2008 campaign manager, Robert Reed, alerted left-leaning blogger, Lamar White Jr., who broke the story that has caused turmoil for Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As Congress prepares to reconvene next week, Scalise, 49, has riled civil rights groups who demand he step aside for addressing the 2002 event hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
House Speaker John Boehner and other party leaders have supported Scalise.
The 2008 special election to replace Representative Bobby Jindal, who resigned to assume the Louisiana governorship, marked the beginning of Scalise's rapid ascension in Congress, where he is a leader in the Republican's conservative wing.
Scalise has apologized for attending the event and said he was unaware of the group's ideology.
Robert Reed said that shortly after his mother's defeat to Scalise, he informed the state Democratic Party of Scalise's participation in the EURO event. A party spokeswoman said the leadership had changed several times since 2008 and the current staff did not know what happened in 2008.
Robert Reed said he contacted the blogger about three weeks ago because of Scalise's rise to majority whip in June.
“I opened up my laptop and searched ‘Steve Scalise’ and ‘David Duke’ and within 35 seconds I found the Stormfront post,” said White, referring to a contemporaneous posting on a neo-Nazi website mentioning Scalise’s presence at the event.
A few days later, White found a second post from the same Stormfront user that again mentioned Scalise’s attendance at the EURO event. The second post convinced him that they were genuine, and not planted by political foes, White said.
White posted his story linking Scalise to the EURO event on Sunday.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Marilyn Thompson and Lisa Shumaker)