Former President Obama’s political team repeatedly attacked House Republican Whip Steve Scalise as proof that the Republican party was racist, making him a target for leftist hate during their time in office.
“You’ll recall that one Republican congressman told a reporter that he was ‘David Duke without the baggage,’” former White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in September 2015, using Scalise to attack Donald Trump. “Mr. Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kinds of views in order to win votes.”
Scalise reportedly made the comment about Duke nearly 20 years ago, which a reporter remembered and published in January 2015. In 2002, Scalise gave a speech the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) — a group tied to Duke, a former KKK leader. Scalise apologized for the decision, calling it “a mistake I regret,” after it became public in 2014.
But the White House used Scalise as a punching bag, frequently reminding reporters that Republicans blocked both immigration reform and the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, and supported allowing the Confederate flag to be placed in military cemeteries, suggesting they were racist.
“Those are the priorities of today’s Republican Party, and they’ll continue to be until someone in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it,” Earnest said.
The White House was still using the talking point in August 2016 ahead of the presidential election.
“I think what is clear is that there has been a willingness on the part of Republicans in Congress to appeal to extremists in this country to try to build political support for their party,” Earnest said in August 2016, again citing the David Duke attack against Scalise.
“They’ve threatened to hold up government funding to make sure that the Confederate flag can be shown in government cemeteries,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said, repeating the “David Duke” comment in September 2016.
In response to questions about Trump, Earnest employed the Scalise attack in June 2016.
“I’m not surprised that there are many Republicans, in Congress at least, who have chosen to overlook these controversial comments and continue to support the presumptive Republican nominee,” Earnest said, citing the “David Duke” comment yet again.
The attacks led leftists to repeatedly suggest that Scalise was aligned with the beliefs of the KKK, a topic that was featured in political cartoons.
On Facebook, the Congressional baseball practice shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, “liked” a political cartoon that featured Scalise as a member of the KKK.