So, turns out maybe Steve Scalise didn't speak at a white supremacist event after all

Monday’s read on the Scalise story: Is Steve Scalise a racist or did his headlong eagerness to get face time with locals as an ambitious state rep land him in front of an audience of David Duke-rs? Tuesday’s read: Maybe Scalise isn’t a racist, but will GOP leaders stand by a member of leadership who somehow saw fit to address a bunch of neo-Nazis? Today’s read: Maybe Scalise didn’t address a bunch of neo-Nazis, but by mistakenly confirming that he did, hasn’t he proved that he’s too dim and sloppy to wield power over the House GOP majority?

Kinda bummed that tomorrow is a holiday. I’m curious to see how the goalposts shift again.

According to [Duke associate Kenny] Knight, the EURO conference was slated to start in the early afternoon, roughly around 1 p.m. But his reservation at the hotel gave him access to the conference space for a few hours before the event’s official kickoff. At the time, Knight headed the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, which was largely comprised of elderly people who lived in his and Scalise’s neighborhood.

Knight said he set up a morning event for his own civic association in the hotel space before the EURO conference started. Though that event was in the conference’s hospitality room, it wasn’t at all related to the EURO event, he said…

Knight estimates that about two-thirds to three-quarters of the people in the hospitality room at the civic association meeting were local residents who weren’t there to attend the EURO event, and about one-third to one-quarter were EURO convention attendees who arrived early and filtered into the hospitality room to drink coffee and kill time.

“I don’t think Steve was aware that there was a small contingent of people who came and sat in the audience prior to the EURO meeting,” Knight said.

It was the morning event for the civic association that Scalise spoke at, insists Knight, not the racist EURO meeting afterward. Reporter Betsy Woodruff spoke to Knight’s girlfriend at the time and she too said she remembered Scalise speaking briefly in the morning, not the afternoon. Other speakers at the morning event included a representative from the local Red Cross and someone from the sheriff’s department, both of whom would have been unlikely to attend (I hope) if that meeting had been racist in nature. Knight even said he’s willing to take a polygraph to prove that Scalise was never invited to the EURO event — although in that case, how come he didn’t make that clear when he spoke about this to WaPo yesterday? In that interview, he said Scalise knew him as the president of the civic association, not as “David Duke’s guy,” and added, “I don’t think Scalise knew anything about EURO”; what he didn’t say is that the morning and afternoon events in the hotel conference room were distinct. All he said was that “Steve came in early on the first day of EURO, spoke for about 15 minutes, and he left.” At some point in the 24 hours or so between talking to WaPo and then to Woodruff, Knight somehow remembered that the morning event wasn’t related to EURO after all. Hmmmmm.

So here’s the state of play on believing Kenny Knight, via Drew McCoy:

As for why Scalise would confirm for the media that he spoke at the EURO event when in fact he had addressed a civic organization, I think John “Doctor Zero” Hayward has it right:

But really, what was Scalise supposed to do?  He opens his front door one morning, cup of coffee in hand, and sees a media bulldozer coming right at him.  He barely remembers the details of brief remarks he made over a decade ago.  Character witnesses step forward to testify that he’s not a racist, including prominent Lousiana Democrats – no less than former governor Edwin Edwards, plus Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Louisiana Democrat left on Capitol Hill – but the story doesn’t go away. Scalise ends up huddled with a media crisis team, maybe has some phone calls with other GOP leaders, and decides he might have somehow talked to these EURO clowns without realizing it, as the media almost unanimously insists.  His statement is a bit too humble before the media furies, but he was probably worried about the savage MSM response if he had said something like, “I still don’t remember this incident playing out the way you’re reporting it, but since you won’t stop hounding me about it, let me just emphasize how strongly I disagree with everything they stand for.”

If he genuinely didn’t remember the event, the smart PR move was to acknowledge that he might have addressed EURO without realizing who they were. If he had denied speaking to them altogether, the media might have dug up his office schedule from 2002 and found that he was indeed at the Best Western in Metairie on the day in question — not to address EURO, as it turns out, but to speak to the civic association. But that wouldn’t matter. Placing Scalise at the scene after he’d denied being there would be evidence that he’d lied, which would in turn be used as evidence that he willingly spoke to a racist group and was now trying to cover it up, and the new round of media headaches for the House leadership would force Boehner to shove Scalise towards the door. Scalise pleaded negligence on the racism charge to avoid a wrongful conviction on a more serious offense.

Which brings us back to those goalposts. How do they move now for Scalise’s enemies on the left, who want to use him as a case study on how racism permeates even the highest levels of Republican leadership, and on the right, who want to use him as proof of how corrupt and hypocritical Boehner’s allies in the GOP establishment are? The next move, I assume, is to forget the speech and focus on Scalise’s chumminess with Knight. Even if he wasn’t asked to address EURO, why was he accepting invitations of any kind from a man who describes himself as “David Duke’s guy”? Shouldn’t he have known that Knight was rotten, even if he was the duly elected head of the civic association? Scalise’s answer to that will be “I didn’t think it was fair to isolate myself from constituents just because they’d elected a community leader whose racial views were distasteful to me.” What’s the move then?

Exit question for lefty critics: Without knowing more yet, it sounds like Scalise’s relationship with Knight was roughly as friendly as Obama’s with Bill Ayers. They moved in similar professional circles; just as it’s troubling that a local community in Louisiana would give Knight even a small role in mainstream politics, it’s troubling that Chicago’s academic community would give the unrepentant Weatherman a position in mainstream academia. They may not have been drinking buddies, but obviously the presence of Knight and Ayers at social functions didn’t send Scalise and Obama fleeing in indignation. What’s the argument for bouncing Scalise while giving His Majesty a pass? Unlike Obama and Ayers, Scalise never held a fundraiser in Knight’s living room, did he?

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