House Majority Whip Steve Scalise Caught Speaking to the Klan | Crisis Communications Media Training
To make matters worse, David Duke, the most notorious Klan leader of the last 30 years yesterday endorsed Scalise as a “great family man.” Not very helpful if you are the third highest ranking republican in the land.
So far, Scalise has offered this as a defense to his local newspaper:
“I detest any kind of hate group,” Scalise said. “I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout south Louisiana. I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group… I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.”
This isn’t going to be enough to make the issue going away. Even conservatives like Erick Erickson are pointing out that this was a stupid act on Scalise’s part and that Trent Lott was driven out of politics for lesser offenses.
If Scalise wants to neutralize this controversy, he needs to hold a press conference and deliver the following messages:
- He abhors what this Nazi/Klan related group stood for.
- He didn’t know what this group stood for.
- He was wrong for speaking at the organization.
- He was wrong for not having a policy of scrutinizing the principles of organizations he speaks in front of.
- He apologizes to all Americans for his lapse in judgment.
- He promises to never again speak in front of any group that advocates hate.
That’s more than my normal recommended 3 point message, but all are essential in this case.
If Scalise makes these points quickly and forcefully and also takes all questions from reporters, then he stands a good chance of defusing this crisis. If he simply clams up and hides behind press releases and spokespersons, his leadership position and his entire career could soon be over.
Also, one tough series of questions he will have to prepare for is this “Congressman Scalise, why is it that Nazi Groups and David Duke seem to have such an affinity for you and other members of your party? Why do they invite you to speak instead of, say, Nancy Pelosi? Do you see why this association is troubling to many African Americans and other non-Whites and non-Christians?”
TJ Walker is a crisis communications counselor and media trainer. If you need help getting out of a jam, call him today at 212.764.4955.