House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said that lawmakers “need to be vocal in speaking out” against neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial, one day after a fellow House Republican forcefully defended his decision not to delete a retweet of a message by a self-described “Nazi sympathizer.”
Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, made his remarks in a one-on-one discussion with The Washington Post’s James Hohmann at a Daily 202 Live event.
Scalise was asked about Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) decision this month to retweet a message by British white nationalist Mark Collett, who has described himself as a Nazi sympathizer and an admirer of Hitler’s Germany. In an appearance on CNN Tuesday night, King spent five minutes explaining why he would not delete his retweet of Collett.
Scalise initially responded by saying that he had not seen King’s tweet but “maybe we’ll go take a look at it and talk to Steve and see what’s going on there.”
Moments later, he returned to the subject, noting that “there are people out there that are still supporters of Nazism” and “we need to condemn that.”
“We need to be very vocal about condemning that kind of viewpoint, because there are still people out there that try to go under the false impression that the Holocaust didn’t exist,” Scalise said. “I mean, there are people that say that. And it’s wrong.”
Scalise’s comments come one day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a rebuke of King’s actions.
“The speaker has said many times that Nazis have no place in our politics, and clearly members should not engage with anyone promoting hate,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Daily Beast.
Scalise himself has had a brush with a group affiliated with racists and neo-Nazi activists, in an episode that drew controversy months after the Louisiana Republican was elected to his current post in House leadership.
In late 2014, reports emerged that Scalise had addressed a gathering hosted by white-supremacist leaders as a state legislator in 2002. Scalise acknowledged that he spoke at the event but maintained that at the time, he was not fully aware of the affiliation of the group, which calls itself the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO.
“For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” Scalise told the Times-Picayune in 2014.
During Wednesday’s interview, Scalise was also asked to weigh in on former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu’s (D) decision last year to take down four of the city’s Confederate statues. Scalise said he “didn’t agree with the way” Landrieu took action.
“It was something that I didn’t think he built a real swell of public support behind it,” Scalise said. “It was never an issue in any of the campaigns that he ran in. And when he did it, you did see it divide black and white in New Orleans in a way that it wasn’t divided before that.”