By Robert Mann
Kenny Knight, the former David Duke aide, is trying to do Rep. Steve Scalise a solid. And some in news media might just buy it. Perhaps they should be more skeptical.
Knight is now asserting that then-state Rep. Scalise wasn’t really speaking to a white supremacist group — the European-American Unity and Rights Organization — in 2002 at a Metairie hotel. Knight, also a former neighbor of Scalise, says the man who is now the Republican whip in the U.S. House was merely speaking to Knight’s neighborhood association.
Here’s what he told the Times-Picayune for a Wednesday story:
Knight said he rented and paid for the hotel conference room for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by Duke. Since he had already paid for the space, Knight said, he decided to also hold his local civic association meeting at the Metairie hotel. He stressed that the two gatherings were not connected.
“Steve Scalise did not address a EURO conference. … The conference was two-and-a-half hours later,” Knight said.
There are at least three problems with Knight’s new tale:
1. Scalise has already acknowledged that he spoke to EURO’s conference. To quote the Washington Post:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white-supremacist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.
2. Knight told a slightly different story to the Washington Post:
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, said in an interview Tuesday that he personally invited House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to speak to a 2002 gathering of white supremacists.
“He was my neighbor,” Knight said of Scalise, who was serving as a state representative at the time of the conference. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”
To its credit, the Times-Picayune noted this discrepancy in Knight’s revised story.
3. Knight falsely told the Times-Picayune that he had nothing at all to do with EURO.
Incorporation papers filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office in 2000 listed Knight as the organization’s treasurer (hat tip to an alert reader for digging up this info). The group was then known as the National Organization for European-American Rights, but later changed its name to EURO.
Perhaps Scalise really was just speaking to a neighborhood association, as Knight now contends. But Knight’s credibility is clearly questionable, at best. His word is a thin reed upon which to exonerate Scalise.
His defenders will have to do much better than this.