On Monday, a liberal blogger revealed that Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) spoke at a conference hosted by white supremacists in 2002 and the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) networks eagerly jumped on the story.
Starting with Tuesday’s morning news shows, the “big three” have given 13 minutes and 7 seconds to Scalise’s 2002 speech with each network doing its best to push how it could hurt Republican efforts at reaching out to minority voters.
After the networks gave 5 minutes 44 seconds to Scalise on Tuesday morning, the “big three” followed up with an additional 4 minutes and 48 seconds of coverage during their Tuesday night broadcasts.
On Wednesday morning, NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning continued to promote the Scalise scandal with two more segments totaling 2 minutes 35 seconds. ABC’s Good Morning America departed from the network obsession with the House Republican and did not cover the story on Wednesday morning.
During a full report on Wednesday’s Today, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, did her best to try and tie Congressman Scalise to David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan:
One of the party’s rising stars, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, at home during the holiday break, acknowledging he did speak at a meeting organized by white supremacists in 2002 while a state official.
Mitchell continued to try and draw a connection between Scalise and Duke by insisting that “while there is no video of the meeting Scalise attended, Duke's organization held conferences, like this one from 2005.” The NBC reporter than played a clip of an unknown white supremacist speaking at the 2005 conference.
Mitchell proceeded to wonder “does the controversy set back John Boehner's efforts to broaden the appeal of the GOP?” before she turned to Washington Post reporter Dan Balz to detail the damage this could cause Republicans:
It can be particularly damaging to the party and to the party's effort to show that it is truly more inclusive and truly reaching out.
On Tuesday night, ABC World News Tonight fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas pushed the “couple of big bumps just days before Republicans take full control over Capitol Hill” before she turned to reporter Jeff Zeleny to hype the supposed headache facing the GOP. Zeleny declared “tonight, the GOP’s in damage control.”
The ABC reporter proceeded to offer up a one-sided report and did his best to connect Congressman Scalise to disgraced former Congressman Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) following his resignation from Congress:
With Grimm gone, Scalise is now the GOP's most pressing problem. Party leaders are standing by him tonight, but its hardly how Republicans hoped to start their new year in their new congressional majority.
So far, CBS Evening News has been the only newscast to provide a balanced full report on Scalise. CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews mentioned that “Scalise was also helped by a Democrat, Congressman Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans political rival" who insisted that he doesn't "view Steve as having racial challenges at all."
Andrews concluded his balanced reporting by detailing Scalise's record on Congress:
What saved Congressman Scalise is his actual record here on Capitol Hill where he has no pattern of racist thoughts or behavior. Norah that allowed Speaker Boehner to see this as a mistake made 12 years ago and not as a big political scandal that could hurt Republicans when they take over here next Monday.
See relevant transcripts below.
December 31, 2014
SHEINELLE JONES: More fallout this morning following the revelation that Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave a speech 12 years ago to a white supremacist group. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell is in Washington with reaction. Andrea, good morning.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Sheinelle. A day after House Republicans had pressured Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm to quit, having pleading guilty to felony tax evasion, more problems now for the GOP, apology from a top House leader Steve Scalise, for appearing at that white supremacist conference when he was a state legislator a dozen years ago.
One of the party’s rising stars, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, at home during the holiday break, acknowledging he did speak at a meeting organized by white supremacists in 2002 while a state official. “A mistake” he wrote in a statement adding, “I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these groups hold.” How could he not know? The group was founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, then a major figure in Louisiana politics.
MICHAEL STEELE: How do you not know who David Duke is? How do you not know what his associations are?
MITCHELL: By then, Duke had famously argued with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
DAVID DUKE: Devastating our people.
TIM RUSSERT: You keep saying our people. Your people.
DUKE: Yeah. My people, my heritage.
RUSSERT: White people?
DUKE: Yeah. My European heritage, the heritage that built this country.
MITCHELL: While there is no video of the meeting Scalise attended, Duke's organization held conferences, like this one from 2005.
UNKNOWN PERSON: We are the white race. We have the ingenuity and the creativity to overcome anything they can put up against us.
MITCHELL: Civil rights groups called Duke's organization a leading hate group.
MARK POTOK: David Duke was the world’s most infamous white supremacist, a man especially known in Louisiana.
MITCHELL: The question now, does the controversy set back John Boehner's efforts to broaden the appeal of the GOP?
DAN BALZ: It can be particularly damaging to the party and to the party's effort to show that it is truly more inclusive and truly reaching out.
MITCHELL: Speaker Boehner issued a statement vouching for Scalise's integrity, while acknowledging that he should not have attended that meeting. The good news though for Republicans, this controversy erupted over the holiday break, a week before the new Congress is actually sworn in. Sheinelle?
JONES: Alright, thank you, Andrea.
CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
December 30, 2014
NORAH O’DONNELL: Today, Republican leaders said they stand behind Congressman Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip. Scalise has admitted he addressed a white supremacist group in Louisiana 12 years ago, and he's apologized for it. Wyatt Andrews is following this.
WYATT ANDREWS: Congressman Scalise calls his 2002 speech to the white supremacist group EURO, “a mistake I regret” but insists in a statement today that “his appearance was never an endorsement. These groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my Catholic faith” he says, “and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry.” Scalise also told CBS affiliate WWL by phone he did not know that EURO was an anti-Semitic organization led by former Klan leader David Duke.
STEVE SCALISE: I'm not familiar with who that group was but, you know, from what I've seen about them I just detest hate groups of any kind.
ANDREWS: Scalise's explanation was enough to keep his job as House Majority Whip. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy both expressed support with Boehner calling the speech “an error in judgment” but praising Scalise as “a man of high integrity.” Scalise was also helped by a Democrat, Congressman Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans political rival.
CEDRIC RICHMOND: I don't view Steve as having racial challenges at all.
ANDREWS: But other Democrats were not as forgiving. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the speech “deeply troubling for a top Republican leader.” And many are questioning Scalise's claim he knew nothing about EURO. Mark Potok is with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
MARK POTOK: It was not an obscure group in the least. Its leader was internationally famous. So I just think that the idea that he walked into this event with no idea what was going on is very, very hard to swallow on its surface.
ANDREWS: But what saved Congressman Scalise is his actual record here on Capitol Hill where he has no pattern of racist thoughts or behavior. Norah that allowed Speaker Boehner to see this as a mistake made 12 years ago and not as a big political scandal that could hurt Republicans when they take over here next Monday.
O’DONNELL: Alright, Wyatt Andrews, thank you.
ABC’s World News Tonight
December 30, 2014
ELIZABETH VARGAS: We're going to move on now to Washington and a couple of big bumps just days before Republicans take full control over Capitol Hill. New York Republican Michael Grimm, who last January threatened to throw a reporter off of a balcony, announcing he will resign after pleading guilty to tax evasion and one of the party's top leaders is facing tough questions, acknowledging that he addressed a hate group 12 years ago. ABC's Jeff Zeleny is in Washington tonight.
JEFF ZELENY: Tonight, the GOP's in damage control. The number three Republican in the House, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, has been in his post for just six months.
HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE [ON 06/19/14]: I do want to thank my colleagues and my constituents.
ZELENY: But now, he's been forced to apologize for speaking at a 2002 gathering of white supremacy leaders. He says it was a mistake to appear before a group founded by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He says he wasn't aware of the group's views. In a statement, he added, “I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold.” Speaker John Boehner called it “an error in judgment,” but said Scalise “has my full confidence.” It wasn't the only political fire Republicans were scrambling to extinguish. New York Congressman Michael Grimm finally agreed to step down, a week after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion. He repeatedly insisted he would stay in office.
REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL GRIMM (N.Y.): As long as I'm able to serve, I'm going to serve.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doesn't accepting possibility mean resigning?
GRIMM: Absolutely not.
ZELENY: But party leaders tell ABC News they grew tired of the Congressman landing in one scrape after another. Like this infamous confrontation with a reporter.
GRIMM [ON 01/29/14]: Let me be clear. You ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this f***ing balcony.
ZELENY: He admitted to lying under oath and failing to pay his full share of taxes at a New York City restaurant he owned. His bluster came to an end after a heated call with Speaker Boehner, who is eager to clean house before Congress opens in January. With Grimm gone, Scalise is now the GOP's most pressing problem. Party leaders are standing by him tonight, but its hardly how Republicans hoped to start their new year in their new congressional majority. Elizabeth?
VARGAS: Alright, Jeff, thanks so much.