Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican who faced fire after it emerged that he spoke before a white supremacist group in 2002, voted as a state legislator against a resolution apologizing for slavery, according to a 1996 report discovered by The Hill newspaper.
The report, from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, states that Scalise was one of two legislators on the Louisiana House Governmental Affairs Committee to oppose the resolution, which sought to atone to African Americans for Louisiana's part “in the establishment and maintenance of the institution of slavery.”
“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn't do and had no part of?” the Times-Picayune quoted Scalise as saying. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
Scalise instead supported a resolution that merely expressed "regret" for slavery.
The revelation of Scalise's 1996 vote underscores the congressman's troubled history on racial issues. Louisiana blogger Lamar White dropped a political bombshell last month when he exposed Scalise's 2002 speech before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. According to Louisiana political reporter Stephanie Grace, during his days in the state legislature, Scalise once described himself to her as "David Duke without the baggage." Duke shocked observers around the world when he pulled off a disturbingly strong showing in Louisiana's 1991 gubernatorial race.
Although Scalise allies, including House Speaker John Boehner, adamantly maintain that the congressman's heart is in the right place, his votes and public statements depict a politician who has repeatedly dabbled in sordid racial politics. In 1999 and 2004, Scalise was part of a small group of Louisiana legislators who voted against making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a state holiday. Those votes came under renewed scrutiny following reports of his 2002 speech before EURO.
On Tuesday afternoon, Scalise is scheduled to host a "Meet Steve Scalise" event with donors at the Capitol Hill Club. Civil rights activists plan to protest outside the venue.