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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 68: Denial of Reality Attack

The Media Research Center's Brad Wilmouth keeps insisting that GOP Rep. Steve Scalise didn't give a speech to a David Duke-led white nationalist group -- despite the fact that Scalise apologized for giving it.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/8/2017

The Media Research Center has demonstrated how allergic it has become to facts during the Trump era. But the MRC's Brad Wilmouth -- once employed there as a "news analyst," now just a blogger for its NewsBusters operation -- has taken this to an extreme.

In a September 2016 post, Wilmouth was offended that CNN guest and college professor Jason Johnson asserted that Trump "continually associates himself with terrorist organizations like the Klan," complaining that "Johnson has a history of making incendiary accusations of racism." Johnson's claim about a Trump-KKK link was overstated (though not without basis), so Wilmouth has something of a point.

But Wilmouth tried to go further, asserting that in a TV appearance earlier in the year, Johnson "repeated a discredited claim that Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise spoke to a white supremacist group in Louisiana in 2002." Wilmouth linked to one of his own posts on the subject from February 2016 that offered this defense for Scalise:

The story about Rep. Scalise speaking to a racist group originated in December 2014 with a liberal blogger who claimed that the Louisiana Republican spoke at a convention for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization -- founded by white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke -- in the congressman's home state in 2002.

Even though the man who booked hotel space for the convention, Kenny Knight, has claimed the event Rep. Scalise spoke to was a separate event for his local community group which he held in the same hotel to take advantage of the available space, while a flyer for the convention shows no sign that Scalise was one of the scheduled speakers, the CNN guest still tried to use the story to connect Republicans to the KKK.

Actually, according to PolitiFact, Knight has "provided several conflicting accounts of the conference and Scalise’s involvement," claiming both that Scalise spoke early to the confab and also that he didn't speak at all. So it seems Knight is not exactly a reliable witness.

But Wilmouth seems to have missed a more important and salient fact: More than a year before Wilmouth wrote his post, Scalise issued an apology for speaking to Duke's organization:

“Twelve years ago, I spoke to many different Louisiana groups as a state representative, trying to build support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes,” Scalise said in his latest statement.

“One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn. It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold. I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain. As a Catholic, these groups hold views that are vehemently opposed to my own personal faith, and I reject that kind of hateful bigotry. Those who know me best know I have always been passionate about helping, serving, and fighting for every family that I represent. And I will continue to do so.”
In other words, Johnson's claim is not "discredited," and Wilmouth's defense of Scalise is dishonest and ignores the relevant fact that Scalise apologized for speaking to the group, and he repeated this false defense in order to dishonestly bash a Trump critic.

Other MRC writers and bloggers had run to Scalise's defense before. P.J. Gladnick, for instance, seized upon a Slate report quoting a Knight claim that Scalise never spoke to the group, huffing that "Whether one politically supports or opposes Scalise, he doesn't deserve being smeared over something that didn't happen." But Wilmouth has shown himself to be almost pathologically devoted to spinning or completely ignoring facts that counter his insistence that Scalise never spoke to Duke's group.

After Scalise was wounded in a shooting in June, that claim returned to the air -- as did Wilmouth's dishonest defense. In a June 15 MRC post, Wilmouth complained that "CNN correspondent Randi Kaye repeated a discredited claim that Republican Rep. Steve Scalise 15 years ago spoke to a group founded by white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke." He continued:

Kaye began the report by recalling that the Republican congressman has a well known love of baseball, and then moved to recounting his history in Congress. The CNN correspondent soon got to the claims about him speaking to white supremacists as she continued: "In 2014, after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, Scalise jumped into the race. But during that campaign, questions were raised about a speech he gave to a group led by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke back in 2002."

She then added: "Scalise told reporters, 'I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.'"

Not mentioned was that back in 2015 it was already reported that the man who invited Scalise to speak in 2002 disputed the account that the congressman spoke to Duke's group. The man who booked hotel space for the group's convention, Kenny Knight, has claimed the event Scalise spoke to was a separate event for his local community group which he held in the same hotel as Duke's group to take advantage of the available space. Additionally, a flyer for the convention shows no sign that Scalise was one of the scheduled speakers.

Wilmouth didn't mention that Knight has no credibility, or that Scalise apologized for the speech.

So desperate is Wilmouth to cling to his falsehood that he issued a rare MRC attack on Fox News in a June 16 post in which he finally admitted that Scalise apologized for giving the speech -- but that pertinent fact didn't matter because that totally discredited guy said he didn't give it:

The discredited claims that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise 15 years ago spoke to a white supremacist group founded by former KKK leader David Duke have left such a mark, that the claims even manage to make it onto Fox News Channel more than two years after the more dominant drive-by liberal media seized on them.

On Wednesday's Fox and Friends, as Fox News producer Greg Pergram reported in by phone in the aftermath of the attack on congressional Republicans in Alexandria, Virginia, he incorrectly recalled that it was the KKK that Scalise was accused of meeting with, when in reality the debunked accusation was that he spoke to a white nationalist group that was founded by Duke.

Additionally, Pergram failed to inform viewers that, even though Scalise issued an apology, the central claim that Scalise spoke to Duke's group was undermined both by a flyer from the event that did not list Scalise as a speaker, and by a man who helped organize the event who claimed that he invited Scalise to speak at a separate gathering in the same hotel that was not part of the white nationalist convention.

Wilmouth spun even harder in a June 23 post complaining that Salon's Chauncey DeVega "repeated the discredited claim that Scalise spoke to a 'white supremacist' group in 2002," still insisting that Scalise's apology didn't prove anything:

Not mentioned by DeVega is that even liberal outlets like Slate, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast have run stories that undermined claims that Scalise spoke to the white racist EURO organization that were based on three eyewitnesses, a promotion flyer for the conference, and a newsletter writeup after the event that did not mention Scalise's presence.

And, as the article noted that Scalise made a "tepid, obligatory apology for attending the conference," it did not note that the Republican admitted that he was actually not sure whether he spoke to the group -- as he recalled that he had spoken to many groups in the same hotel without always knowing exactly what they were about -- and may have just made the apology to cover his bases. It was not until later that evidence and testimony surfaced that he was not a part of the EURO event after all.

Brad, honey, Scalise apologized for speaking to the group. That trumps any defense you're offering. Accept it and move on with your life.

This is the state of "media research" these days at the MRC.

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