Steve Scalise has risen to power very fast. But when the news broke that in 2002 he spoke to a white supremacist group founded by David Duke, his damage-control machine went into full swing, with lots of fun excuses.

First, Scalise’s office claimed he couldn’t remember if he had spoken at the event. But, as the Internet existed in 2002, it became clear that there was too much evidence to use that excuse.

Next, Scalise admitted he spoke at the event but that he spoke to lots of groups that year, including the League of Women Voters. That’s right! Scalise is deflecting this story by comparing a nonpartisan, noncontroversial organization that registers voters to a hate group founded by a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, which spent more than a century systematically murdering people of color.

Finally, Scalise’s most embarrassing excuse is that he didn’t know that the group was a white supremacy group. Really?! The name of the group is European-American Unity and Rights Organization. So either our congressman was intentionally speaking to a white supremacy group, or he is a dupe who does no research on groups before speaking to them. Either way, it disqualifies him from holding office.

To be clear, I’m not accusing Scalise of being a racist. I’m accusing him of pandering to racists. Everyone remembers that Duke won close to 40 percent of the vote in his bid for governor. But perhaps many have forgotten that Duke held the seat that Scalise currently occupies, and politicians cannot win a district without appealing to that district’s voters.

In fact, the newspaper Roll Call did a story on Duke’s plan to run for Bob Livingston’s seat in 1999 and interviewed Scalise. Rather than use the opportunity to condemn Duke, Scalise tiptoed around it, saying the novelty of David Duke had worn off. So, at one point, Scalise found Duke to be novel.

Scalise goes on to say that the most important thing about the election was that the voters needed to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. So according to Scalise in 1999, David Duke shared the values of the voters, but his real problem was that he was unelectable. Wow.

Scalise wasn’t a confused young man in 2002. He was a 37-year-old, two-term state representative. In 2004, he was one of only six lawmakers to vote against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday. Just because he didn’t show up to that event with a white hood and use the N word doesn’t mean he didn’t know exactly who he was talking to. He should resign immediately.

Chris Edmunds

professional musician