White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the President had not weighed in specifically on whether House Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) should retain his leadership position — Scalise was elected majority whip in June — but left the impression the Republicans might want to think hard about it.
In his daily press conference, Earnest said that the GOP has to choose its own leadership, but also needs to think about whether someone who has reportedly described himself as "David Duke without the baggage" represents the broadening of appeal the Republican party has talked about. Certainly, he said, who they choose for leadership posts says a lot about their priorities and values, he told reporters.
Scalise has apologized for addressing a white supremacist group back in 2002 linked to former Klan head and white supremacist David Duke when Scalise was a state legislator. But the controversy got some new legs when New Orleans Advocate reporter Stephanie Grace wrote that some 20 years ago Scalise had described himself as Duke without the baggage, (she was paraphrasing) a reference Earnest brought up unprompted and repeated when asked about it.