The Lead

Rep. Summer Lee urges GOP not to nominate ‘white supremacist antisemite’ Scalise as Speaker of the House

By: - October 12, 2023 9:18 am
U.S. Rep. Summer lee, D-12th District, on the floor of the U.S. House (Screen Capture).

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, on the floor of the U.S. House (Screen Capture).

Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District) called Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana a “white supremacist antisemite” in a press release on Thursday, and urged Scalise’s fellow Republicans to withdraw their support for him as Speaker of the House.

“I’m sickened to learn that years before he was caught calling himself himself David Duke without the baggage, Scalise spoke at the 2002 International White Supremacist Convention sponsored by a group whose website said that ‘Jews will attack us for wanting to restore white America and are responsible for the ‘browning’ of America,'” Lee said in the statement, “and peddled the same white-supremacist and antisemitic theory replacement theory that motivated the murders of 11 beloved members of my community in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, 10 Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, 23 Hispanic community members in El Paso, and 51 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch.”

She cited reports from 2014 that Scalise attended a meeting in 2002 of a group the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a white nationalist organization. Lee also referred to a 2014 column that has recently resurfaced, where the writer claims Scalise had  previously referred to himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” Duke is a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Scalise was nominated for the Speaker role by a majority of Republicans during closed-door meetings on Wednesday, but within a few hours of the vote, some GOP House members, including Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-11th District)  said they wouldn’t support Scalise in a vote on the House floor, preferring Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Republicans are expected to return  Thursday to try again to select a speaker. The speaker role remains vacant after a group of dissident Republicans voted with Democrats to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California last week. .

“Every Republican who votes for his Speakership will vote in support of rising anti-semitism, white supremacy, and islamophobia,” Lee added.  She said she would vote for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, “and continue my work building bridges between marginalized communities to dismantle the systems of white supremacy enabling violence against our communities.”

Scalise’s office did not reply to a request for comment Thursday.

Late Thursday evening, Scalise announced he was dropping out of the race for speaker. “Our conference still has to come together and it’s not there,” he told reporters.

This article was updated at 9:22 p.m. October 12, 2023, after Scalise dropped out of the race.


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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly