Is it plausible that incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) did not know he was addressing a white supremacist group in May 2002, when he spoke at a convention of the European American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO)? Some Louisiana political figures, including EURO's founder, former Klansman and gubernatorial candidate David Duke, think so. Others say it seems quite unlikely that Scalise was not familiar with the organization, given all the attention that Duke's activism had attracted within the state. Maybe it's true that Scalise, at the time a state legislator with a small staff, felt he did not have the resources to vet all of the groups that invited him to speak. But at least one of the excuses he offered in a recent interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune is clearly bogus (emphasis added):
Q: What types of safeguards do you have in place now [to make sure you don't speak to a group like this again]?
A: There is a lot more vetting that goes into setting my appointments. I have a scheduler. I didn't have a scheduler back then. I was without the advantages of a tool like Google. It's nice to have those. Those tools weren't available back then.
Really? In 2002 even the lowliest, most harried politicians had "a tool like Google." In fact, they had Google, which at the time would have generated several pages of results for Duke's group. The first page includes a list of David Duke quotes, a March 2002 Cleveland Scene article about the "white power" movement, and a February 2002 essay by Duke identifying him as president of EURO. While Scalise may not have bothered to Google EURO before accepting the group's invitation, that's not because it was impossible or would not have provided useful information.
Addendum: Although Scalise has apologized for speaking at the EURO event, calling it a regrettable error, Slate reported last night that a Duke associate who helped arrange the accommodations for the conference says Scalise did not actually address the group but instead spoke to a local civic association in the same space before the conference started. "Scalise may have just ineptly admitted to speaking at a white supremacist event that eyewitnesses say he never attended," writes Slate's Betsy Woodruff.