cedric-richmond-steve-scalisejpg-604ab64e6cb74272U.S. Rep Cedric Richmond is catching a lot of heat for his firm and unqualified words of support for U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. Some are calling him a sell-out. Others are vowing to never vote for him again.

Here at The New Orleans Tribune we want to vouch for Rep. Richmond. In fact, if we could borrow a few of his words and add some of our own, we’d say this:

We don’t think Cedric Richmond has a sell-out bone in his body. Our publishers have known him since he was youngster. They know his family. His mother Maple would not be happy with him doing or saying anything that hurts his community. No, no, no. This one thing is not the measure of Cedric Richmond.

And as misguided as Richmond’s words of absolution for Scalise may be, we are certain there is no malice or mischief behind them.

This all has to do with something that happened about 12 years ago when then Louisiana state Rep. Steve Scalise accepted an invitation to speak at meeting of David Duke’s White supremacist organization European-American Unity and Rights Organization or EURO. Now the U.S. House Majority Whip, Scalise’s imprudent decision to hold court with a hate group has recently come to light and is whipping up all manner of ire and indignation.

Some are enraged, seizing this as a perfect opportunity to impugn Scalise and his party and calling out those—especially Black leaders—that defend him. The White House has even taken a jab, saying the fact that the Republican Party has rallied around Scalise instead of cutting him off speaks to the party’s values.

(Side note: Hello, we expect them to rally around him, support him and do their best to protect the image of their party. Others might do well to take notes instead of throwing shade.)

Meanwhile, there are those like U.S. Rep. Richmond, state Sen. Ed Murray and Gov. Jindal speaking on his behalf, attempting to assure folk that Steve’s misstep was just that—an oversight, a slip-up—and not a sweeping reflection of who he is as a man and a lawmaker. Now, we aren’t buying that for a second. We expected as much from Jindal, and while support from Black Democrats is a bit more uncomfortable, we’re not mad with Richmond or Murray or anyone else for their opinions. We just disagree. Actually, we strongly disagree and we applaud the enterprising work of the third-year law student Lamar White Jr., the blogger who uncovered this info on Scalise. As the congressman rises to power in the Beltway, it is important to know just who we are dealing with. We’re not happy that a major Republican leader spent time courting David Duke and his minions. Still, we just don’t think that the time and energy focused on whether Steve Scalise knew what EURO was, what that says about him, or criticizing those daring enough to risk their reputations defending him is the best way to focus our time and resources.

In 2002, Scalise was a state representative. He claims now that he didn’t know EURO was a hate group and that as a good Catholic he is repulsed by such organizations. He claims he was just accepting an invitation to share and build support for his policy positions. Allow us to settle this contention. Despite Scalise’s assertions, we have no doubt he knew then what EURO stood for, its beliefs and guiding principles. We are certain he went to the EURO conference explicitly to appeal to the very sort of people that would join an organization led by David Duke. Let’s be real. We can only assume that, as a lawmaker, Scalise is a marginally intelligent fellow or at least smart enough to have his folks vet any group he was going to appear before prior to addressing them. He knew who David Duke was and what he represents. So the “oh my, I didn’t have a clue” excuse doesn’t wash with us here at The New Orleans Tribune. Actually, we prefer racists to own up to their bigotry. And we have no doubt that Scalise was purposely pandering to the faction of his party whose brand of conservatism bends toward unexplainable hatred and racism. We think what he did was pretty lowbrow and despicable. And it would be refreshing to hear the truth and have him say something like “sure, I knew who they were and what they believe, and I went to them anyway because that’s what I wanted to do.” We’d rather that over a fake apology any day.

News flash: Some politicians pander. Actually, a lot of politicians pander. Really, most politicians pander. They indulge and even exploit the weaknesses, the demands, the ideals of groups of people in order to gain their support—their votes. Hell, politicking and pandering are almost synonyms. And if you want to know the real deal about a politician, just peep their pandering.

Steve Scalise spoke to a room full of bigots 12 years ago. Really, that is supposed to be a bombshell revelation that rocks the foundation of our world? Okay, if y’all say so.

Why should we be surprised? After all, we are talking about the same Steve Scalise who was one of only six Louisiana Republicans to vote against making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday in 2004. Yep, the same guy that voted against the measure five years earlier in 1999. Now, we’re supposed to be flabbergasted because he entertained a White nationalist organization back in 2002? Okay, if y’all say so.

Thanks, but no thanks. We will reserve our ire, protest, blood pressure medication and anti-depressants for something else.

Certainly, don’t confuse our position as that of support or defense of Scalise. We don’t support nor defend him and while we are a little taken aback by those who have publicly endorsed him, we aren’t going to castigate them either—at least not over their opinions on Steve Scalise.

We listened to some say they will never vote for Richmond again because he has come to Scalise’s aid. We don’t agree, but we do love and admire that fervor. Just wondering: where has that same brand of passion been in the last several years as we continue to go to the polls to elect and re-elect the very same lawmakers that handed our schools over to profiteers on a silver platter for them to pilfer and plunder?

Yes, Scalise’s action was reprehensible, horrid and shameful. And it was no mistake, to be sure. But was it any more reprehensible than oh, let’s see, having African-American leaders throw their support behind a millage renewal that funnels local tax dollars to a state-controlled agency that will dole the money out to semi-private schools with “community” boards that do not answer to the voters and taxpayers of Orleans Parish. These leaders did this fully understanding that the residents of New Orleans have been disenfranchised by the new public education paradigm. They did this knowing that our people have no power when it comes to the vast majority of local schools in Orleans Parish. And we can only surmise that they did it with their own ulterior motives in mind. How could Steve Scalise or Cedric Richmond be more deserving of our disappointment and rage than any of those leaders? Nope, we don’t see it.

Really, Steve Scalise speaking to EURO pales in comparison to having elected and appointed leadership sit in silence, saying nothing as that same state agency, the Recovery School District, to be exact, has been cited by legislative auditors over and over again for its mishandling of public money and property. Steve Scalise’s indiscretion certainly takes a back seat to watching the billions of dollars for recovery and growth pour in this city, while disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) have to fight for scraps that fall from the table.

Yep, Steve Scalise’s actions were unscrupulous. And shame on Cedric Richmond for at least not choosing words that were a little less categorical when he spoke up for him. But what Steve did and what Cedric said can’t be more unscrupulous than, ummm…uhhh…letting a former police superintendent quietly retire just before news that sex crime stats had been doctored under his watch?

We have some real problems and serious situations that need our continued attention. Where’s the justice for Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice? Have you noticed that news about protests regarding their deaths have all but vanished as this non-story about Steve Scalise takes center stage. How about calls for justice for Justin Sipp and Henry Glover, right here at home? A handcuffed Victor White commits suicide in the back of a police car in New Iberia last March, and there is hardly a murmur or a mutter. We’re not talking about that. We’re not vowing to keep the pressure on until a federal investigation is complete in this matter. In fact, EURO-gate has garnered more press and outrage than the state Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case brought by of our fired teachers? Our teachers—7,500 wrongfully fired veteran educators—are dealt a blow by the state’s high court in October. But who had time to worry about that because Thanksgiving was just around the corner, then Christmas, the New Year, the Sugar Bowl had to go off without a hitch and now all we can think about is partying at Mardi Gras. You know what, it’s no wonder a group of White supremacists were able to meet 15 minutes away from downtown New Orleans and no one raised an eyebrow about it for a dozen years. We’re just so easily distracted.

When was the last time you cornered your elected representative and asked them what they were doing to address widening income disparities, lack of economic opportunities, mass incarceration, poverty, and health and education disparities?

Better still, what are you doing to use the resources at your disposal to make your community better and to marginalize groups like EURO and the elected officials like Steve Scalise that pander to them. You see, getting angry, name-calling and empty promises to withhold your vote are nothing compared to collective action that unifies impressive economic power.

Somehow, we’ve once again allowed the mainstream media to dictate the direction of the wind—providing a perfect distraction. Yep, they are right. It’s blowing east and sweeping tons of bull crap in our direction.

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