White House: It's GOP Decision On Scalise Leadership

Says President Hasn't Weighed in on Rep's 2002 Address

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the President had not weighed in specifically on whether House Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) should retain his leadership position--Scalise was elected majority whip in June--but left the impression the Republicans might want to think hard about it.

In his daily press conference, Earnest said that the GOP has to choose its own leadership, but also needs to think about whether someone who has reportedly described himself as "David Duke without the baggage" represents the broadening of appeal the Republican party has talked about. Certainly, he said, who they choose for leadership posts says a lot about their priorities and values, he told reporters.

Scalise has apologized for addressing a white supremacist group back in 2002 linked to former Klan head and white supremacist David Duke when Scalise was a state legislator. But the controversy got some new legs when New Orleans Advocate reporter Stephanie Grace wrote that some 20 years ago Scalise had described himself as Duke without the baggage, (she was paraphrasing) a reference Earnest brought up unprompted and repeated when asked about it.

Grace also reported that Scalise disavowed that Duke "baggage" of racism and anti-Semitism at the time, as he has done recently.

In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune last month, Scalise said he doesn't support the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) or anything it stands for and doesn't remember speaking to the group, though he conceded to talking to a number of groups about his opposition to a tax plan at about that time he is said to have addressed EURO—spring 2002.

Scalise is a familar name in communications circles, particularly with fans of major deregulation. Scalise has pushed major video reform, including repealing compulsory licenses and lifting media ownership rules. He has also long proposed getting rid of the must-buy tier and scrapping the retransmission consent regime, both of which cable operators would like to see gone.