Slate was itching to issue a Slatey take on this week's news that Republicans' House majority whip spoke at a white supremacists' hootenanny in 2002. So the site published a contrarian account, quickly praised by right wing pundits, based on the rantings of one local man who concealed his ties to the racist group.
That man, Kenny Knight, told Slate on Wednesday that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), the GOP's No. 3 man in Congress, didn't actually speak to a 2002 meeting of ex-Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke's European Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), even though Scalise and Duke had both conceded earlier that he had.
Actually, Knight argued, Scalise was speaking to a smaller group of elderly neighbors from Knight's "Jefferson Heights Civic Association":
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.
"It was my room to do what I want with it," he said... "I wanted to reach out to him and give him an audience so he could talk to people from his district about legislation he was proposing," Knight said. "I did that as a courtesy."
Knight said he'd also invited a cop and a Red Cross official to speak at the gathering, but he couldn't provide any of their names to Slate.
"Poor Steve Scalise is a good man — a good, Christian man," Knight told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a day after describing EURO's members to Slate not as "white supremacists" but "middle-aged, taxpaying, God-fearing, Christian people."
Knight conceded that he was a buddy of David Duke's and helped organized the EURO convention, but he was adamant that he had no affiliation with EURO.
That turned out to be untrue: The Times-Picayune uncovered documentation proving that Knight was not only a member of Duke's racist group, he was its treasurer. And the paper also uncovered a website that busts Knight's story:
Further, a May 16, 2002, news release on an an archived version of EURO's former website, www.whitecivilrights.com, lists Knight as "EURO Louisiana State Representative Kenny Knight." The release says Knight was expected to address the group's May 17-18, 2002, conference.
That was the white supremacist conference that Knight insisted he had not invited Congressman Scalise to. The Times-Picayune followed up with Knight, with predictable results:
When asked by telephone Thursday about the records listing him as EURO's treasurer, Knight twice hung up on a reporter. "Is that 15 years ago? I don't even remember that," he said. "I'm not communicating any more with the news media. I'm finished with y'all."
But as ThinkProgress notes, the fever swamps of right-wing internet "news" consumed Knight's bullshit story with the zeal of New Year's Eve drunks in the three a.m. drive-through line at Taco Bell, vomiting it back up, still warm, for consumption by the circling Twitter buzzards:
Fake Steve Scalise racism story shopped to blogger by vengeful Scalise opponent.: http://t.co/np5xiQk6r7
— RedState (@RedState) January 2, 2015
CONFIRMED: Steve Scalise did NOT attend white supremacist meeting http://t.co/tbzsL8JIiz
— Right Scoop (@trscoop) January 1, 2015
Slate Discovers Scalise Did Not Attend White Supremacist Event http://t.co/974X03390j
— NewsBusters (@newsbusters) January 1, 2015
Leftist Dems attempt to falsely smear Rep. Scalise and pathologically ignore Obama being mentored by a black racist "preacher" for 20 yrs!
— CV McDonald (@vdld) December 31, 2014
Now it's revealed #Scalise only spoke at an event IN THE SAME HOTEL as Duke's org met. Is Left going to smear the Red Cross? They spoke, too
— suzyrice (@suzy_rice) January 1, 2015
All of this, mind you, even though Scalise and David Duke have both already publicly said Scalise was at the EURO conference and never asked for the right-wing meme machine for a lifeline.
Slate argues that Knight's account and a corroborating story from one of Knight's ex-girlfriends "cast doubt on an emerging narrative" about Scalise happily cozying up to some rabid Klansmen. It's true: That narrative would be a caricature of what we know. The reality is we haven't learned anything we didn't already know before l'affaire Scalise: It's never easy to discern where racial animus ends and conservative politics begin. ("Much of David Duke's '91 campaign is now in Louisiana mainstream," the Times reported yesterday.)
The only things that are clear from Knight's interviews is that he is a lying white supremacist, and Slate gave him a platform.
[Photo credits: AP Images]