Politicians, take note: Never, ever put yourself in a situation where your name and that of white supremacist David Duke can be used together in a sentence, unless you are condemning him.
Unfortunately for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), that situation is precisely what occurred this past week, after a liberal blogger reported — and the congressman acknowledged — that Scalise, as a state legislator, had addressed a white-supremacist group affiliated with Duke in 2002.
Scalise scrambled to contain the damage and hold on to the third-ranking post in the House GOP leadership, explaining that he had no idea of the group’s link to the former KKK leader. (Insert eye roll here: Duke is a very well-known figure in Louisiana politics. He served briefly as a state representative in the early 1990s and has run for office, including U.S. Senate and governor, repeatedly. His connections should be clear to state politicians.)
“It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold,” Scalise said. “I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”
Scalise’s story seemed to convince his colleagues, as both Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy put out statements declaring their full support for him. And Slate reported that he may not have addressed the white-supremacist gathering after all, but rather a community group meeting earlier in the day at the same location — an event organized by the same Duke associate.
Still, for a party readying to take full control of Congress in just days, the news was beyond unhelpful.
Steve Scalise, for bringing David Duke back into the news cycle, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Each week, Chris Cillizza awards the worst week in Washington to an inhabitant of Planet Beltway who stands out for all the wrong reasons. You can check out previous winners or e-mail Cillizza with candidates. You can also read more from Outlook and follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter.