WASHINGTON (JTA) — The sole Jewish Republican in the incoming Congress said a speech by a party leader to a white supremacist group would not harm the party.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) responded on Dec. 30 to revelations that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the majority whip in the incoming U.S. House of Representatives, spoke in 2002 to a group with ties to white supremacist David Duke.
“This doesn’t undercut Republican progress towards reaching minorities and the Jewish community,” Zeldin said in a statement to The Hill, a daily covering Congress.
Scalise’s comments are clouding the Republican triumph in November elections, when the party gained seats in the House and seized control of the Senate from Democrats.
The GOP leadership has stood behind Scalise, who says he regrets the talk he gave as a state legislator. Scalise said he was unaware of the group’s affiliations at the time.
In a statement, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, cited a finding by the Anti-Defamation League that the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, the group Scalise addressed, was anti-Semitic.
“Whip Scalise’s involvement with a group classified by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group is deeply troubling for a top Republican leader in the House,” she said.