A week after Lamar White broke the story of Rep. Steve Scalise's 2002 speech before a white supremacist group, the fallout is still going strong as Scalise faces withering criticism, including from conservative outlets.
On December 28, White broke the news that Scalise spoke to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EUARO) in 2002. Scalise, who represents Louisiana's 1st District and holds a leadership position as the House majority whip, has since apologized for the appearance, claiming he was unaware of the group's racist background. While Scalise has been heavily criticized, Republican Party leadership has so far not called on him to give up his position as majority whip.
“It is fascinating,” White, who has edited CenLamar.com since 2006, told Media Matters in an interview. “It has highlighted this major fraction between the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party and the more sensible wing of the party, or mainstream wing.”
Criticism of Scalise has been widespread, even from normally conservative editorial pages such as the Boston Herald and Chicago Tribune, which have both called for Scalise to give up his leadership post.
“By playing footsie with this group, Scalise has disqualified himself from a position of leadership in a party that needs to do a better job of understanding and addressing the suspicions it arouses among many minority Americans,” the Tribune editorial board wrote.
USA Today also urged Scalise to step down.
Other newspaper editorial boards, such as the Sacramento Bee and Scalise's hometown Times-Picayune of New Orleans, have stopped short of calling for Scalise to give up his leadership position, but offered harsh rebukes of his actions.
“U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise never should have agreed in 2002 to speak at a conference organized by a hate group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. It was a grievous error in judgment,” the Times-Picayune opined, later adding, “his credibility has suffered with Louisianians who find David Duke and his anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-gay beliefs abhorrent. He will have to work diligently to repair it.”
Bill O'Reilly raised the issue on his Fox News program Monday night, interviewing EUARO leader David Duke about the issue and stating, “don't sit here and tell me that you're not trying to promote the cause of the white people, because you are.”
White, who has been involved in Louisiana news and politics for years, said the key element for coverage is Scalise's leadership position.
“I knew it was a bombshell,” said White. “But I know that the fact that Steve Scalise being the House majority whip would create a lot of attention. I guess that if the story had just been about Steve Scalise, congressman from the first district of Louisiana and did not include the House majority whip, I don't think anyone would have cared.”
He also said that the fact that mainstream media had picked up the story from his independent website is a good sign for the power of such news outlets.
“It was reassuring to me that this story became national and became international. It just demonstrates that America has very little patience for any politician that would associate with white nationalists and would speak in front of their conference,” he said. “What I was really blown away by was the respect the mainstream media afforded me ... I thought that was really, for me as an independent journalist, it was really reassuring.”
Asked about reaction to his scoop, White added, “I'm glad about the coverage it's gotten. I don't write anything to try destroy anybody, this was not about trying to take someone down, no one coordinated with me, I didn't get paid for it, I got a tip to Google something and I did ... I'm happy that people know about it nationally and internationally. What I'm most pleased by is that people are legitimately nowadays not patient over a politician, a congressman, who is 36 years old at the time and an elected state representative, he should have known better and he did know better.”