Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke said Wednesday that he was considering running against Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) as the congressman tries to distance himself from an appearance he made at a conference hosted by Duke's white supremacist group more than a decade ago.
Scalise has faced heavy criticism after it emerged that he had spoken at a conference hosted by European-American Unity and Rights Organization as a state senator in 2002. Scalise, now the House majority whip, has said he was unaware of the group's views at the time.
During an appearance on "The Jim Engster Show," first reported by BuzzFeed, Duke -- who was almost elected Louisiana's governor in 1991 -- said he was considering running against Scalise because the congressman had betrayed his constituents.
"He got elected on false pretenses," Duke said. "He got elected as David Duke without the baggage. But he's not David Duke. He's basically condemning the people of his district who voted overwhelmingly for me to be their U.S. senator and voted to be their governor.
"He's insulting every one of the members who actually voted for him, because he's suggesting that they're racist because they supported my views."
Duke said Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was a sellout and called on him to step down.
It's not clear whether Scalise researched Duke's group before speaking to it. The organizer of the EURO conference told Nola.com that Scalise actually spoke at a civic association meeting being held in the same hotel earlier that day, but not to the white supremacist group.
While Scalise has said he detests hate groups, a Louisiana reporter told The New York Times that he had described himself to her as "David Duke without the baggage." It's unclear whether Scalise was suggesting that he shared Duke's racist views, or whether he was simply suggesting he shared Duke's conservative values.
Scalise this week agreed to meet with the head of a civil rights group that had criticized him for his 2002 speech.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the name of the radio show where Duke made his comments, "The Jim Engster Show."