For Steve Scalise to keep his job as the third-ranking House Republican, the speech he delivered 12 years ago to a white supremacist group better have been a one-time thing.
The majority whip on Tuesday secured the first must-have for a politician in crisis mode: support from his political leadership. What he'll need now is a lack of new revelations that suggest his talk to an organization led by David Duke was anything other than an isolated appearance by a naive political climber.
Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy seem to believe that's all it was. In quick succession, the top two House Republicans put out statements of support for Scalise, who issued his own, more extensive mea culpa on Tuesday and was reaching out to colleagues to assure them that the man they elected as a leader six months ago was not, in fact, a racist. “More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate," Boehner said.
"Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans.”
McCarthy also cited Scalise's "mistake" before vouching for him. "I’ve known him as a friend for many years," he said, "and I know that he does not share the beliefs of that organization.” The leaders' statements came as calls began to come in for Scalise to relinquish his post a day after he acknowledged speaking to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a nationalist group led by Duke, the infamous Louisiana politician and former KKK leader.