‘Big Three’ Networks Pounce On GOP Rep. Scalise Speaking To White Nationalists In 2002

On December 29, Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) admitted that he spoke at a convention of white supremacists in 2002 while serving as a Louisiana state legislator and the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) networks predictably had a field day with the story.

On Tuesday, all three networks provided full reports on Congressman Scalise during their morning newscasts totaling 5 minutes 44 seconds. CBS News reporter Jan Crawford declared that “this comes as the GOP is really trying to burnish its image, reach out to African-Americans and other minorities and this obviously does not help.” 

CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O’Donnell introduced the network’s coverage by playing up how the story is “embarrassing one of the leading conservatives in Congress” before she turned to Crawford to offer up a full report on the controversy. 

After detailing the history of the white supremacist group Scalise spoke at, Crawford brought on Washington Post reporter Robert Costa to slam the congressman and the entire GOP over the issue: 

House Speaker John Boehner has a decision to make. He's trying to set the tone for his new Congress, but he knows if he cuts Scalise off it could cost him political capital within the House. 

The CBS reporter concluded her piece by noting one final time how Scalise’s “presence in the leadership gives Speaker Boehner credibility with that part of the Republican Party. But this comes as the GOP is really trying to burnish its image, reach out to African-Americans and other minorities and this obviously does not help.”

ABC’s Good Morning America struck a similar tone during their Scalise coverage with fill-in host Dan Harris declaring it “a damaging revelation overnight from one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress...this is really not what Republicans need at a time when they're trying to win over minorities.” 

The ABC anchor then turned to Jonathan Karl, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent, to explain how Scalise could spell doom for the GOP. After Karl insisted that “this looks bad” for both Scalise and the GOP, the ABC reporter pushed how “it remains to be seen if that's going to be good enough. We have reached out to Speaker of the House John Boehner for comment on this, none yet.” 

On NBC’s Today, co-host Sheinelle Jones noted how “Steve Scalise of Louisiana is under fire for a speech he gave at a white supremacist conference back in 2002.  He’s the third highest ranking House Republican and now other members of Congress are calling for an investigation.”

While the “big three” were quick to jump on the Scalise controversy, the networks yawned when a former Black Panther leader hosed a fundraiser for Georgia Democratic Senate Candidate Michelle Nunn in July of 2014.      
 
See relevant transcripts below. 

CBS This Morning

December 30, 2014

NORAH O’DONNELL: Meanwhile, the number three House Republican admits this morning that he spoke to a convention of white supremacists in 2002. A spokeswoman says Congressman Steve Scalise rejects “hate-filled ignorance and intolerance.” Jan Crawford is on Capitol Hill with a story that's embarrassing one of the leading conservatives in Congress. Jan good morning. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning. So Scalise is a congressman from Louisiana. He’s been here in Congress since 2008 and was elected Majority Whip just six months ago but it was that speech that he gave nearly 13 years ago that now is coming back to haunt him. Steve Scalise was a state lawmaker when he was asked in 2002 to address a gathering of EURO, the European Unity and Rights Organization. Founded by ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, EURO is considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to a post on a neo-Nazi forum after the event a user says Scalise “graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund” as “an apparent give away to a selective group based on race.” Scalise denies knowing what the group stood for when he gave the speech. Washington Post reporter Robert Costa says in 2002 David Duke was a well-known figure in Louisiana politics. 

ROBERT COSTA: This was a major event in Louisiana at the time. It was in New Orleans. It was a gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Scalise says he was not aware of those associations but it seems like everyone else who was there was quite knowledgeable about Mr. Duke and his history. 

CRAWFORD: In a statement, Scalise's office said “he has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question.” When Duke was mulling a run for Congress, the same poster wrote, “I suppose if Duke does not make the election for whatever reason, Scalise would be a good alternative.” So far GOP colleagues are supporting Scalise, but the question is for how long. 

COSTA: House Speaker John Boehner has a decision to make. He's trying to set the tone for his new Congress, but he knows if he cuts Scalise off it could cost him political capital within the House. 

CRAWFORD: Now, you know, Scalise, obviously, he's well respected among conservatives. And his presence in the leadership gives Speaker Boehner credibility with that part of the Republican Party. But this comes as the GOP is really trying to burnish its image, reach out to African-Americans and other minorities and this obviously does not help. 

 

ABC’s Good Morning America

December 30, 2014

DAN HARRIS: But we are going to move on now to a damaging revelation overnight from one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. Just days before the GOP takes control on Capitol Hill, one of the party's top leaders is acknowledging that he gave a speech to a hate group more than a decade ago. So let’s go to Washington now and ABC’s Jon Karl. Jon, this is really not what Republicans need at a time when they're trying to win over minorities. 

JONATHAN KARL: That's for sure, Dan. And this looks bad. The person in question here is Steve Scalise, he is the third-highest ranking Republican in Congress and his office is now acknowledging that about ten years ago he spoke before a group that was started by a neo-Nazi, KKK leader David Duke, down in Louisiana. Now his office is saying, and he is saying that when he spoke to this group he did not realize what their views were, didn’t realize how objectionable they were.

And in a statement his office has put out he says “he has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.” Now, it remains to be seen if that's going to be good enough. We have reached out to Speaker of the House John Boehner for comment on this, none yet. 

HARRIS: So the question, can he keep his spot as the number three top Republican in the House of Representatives?


ABC’s Good Morning America 

December 30, 2014 

RYAN SMITH: And a rising star in the Republican Party now admits he once spoke at a convention hosted by a white supremacist group. Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking Republican in the House, was a state lawmaker in Louisiana 12 years ago when he spoke to the group which was founded by former KKK leader David Duke. But Scalise says he was not familiar with the group then and he “detests any kind of hate group.” 

 

NBC’s Today 

December 30, 2014

WILLIE GEIST: A high-ranking Republican on Capitol Hill is dealing with fallout over a meeting he attended more than a decade ago. Sheinelle has more on that story for us. 

SHEINELLE JONES: Good morning. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana is under fire for a speech he gave at a white supremacist conference back in 2002. He’s the third highest ranking House Republican and now other members of Congress are calling for an investigation. Overnight House Majority Whip Steve Scalise acknowledged that he might have spoken at a convention held by white supremacists while he was a state lawmaker in Louisiana but says he was not aware of what principles the group stood for.

In an exclusive interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Scalise shot back at criticism saying “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 says at the time he was making many appearances to oppose a local tax plan. “I spoke to any group that called and there were a lot of groups calling.” One of the groups that called was EURO, the European-American and Unity Rights Organization, founded by David Duke. Duke was the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Scalise’s colleagues are speaking out on both sides of the issue. Democratic representative Yvette Clarke, who serves as a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, called on House Speaker John Boehner to conduct an investigation into the congressman's actions while others like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is offering the high-ranking member support saying in a statement “I'm confident he absolutely rejects racism in all its forms.”

Race Issues Racism ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Jan Crawford Jonathan Karl Dan Harris Norah O'Donnell Steve Scalise

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