WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, said Wednesday he rejects all forms of bigotry after his admission last week that he addressed a white supremacist group in 2002.

Scalise, of Louisiana, faced fresh questions about his 2002 speech to a Louisiana convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which called itself EURO. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

Scalise has said that speaking to the group was a mistake he regretted.

“I reject bigotry of all forms,” Scalise said at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday. “And I think when you see the people that know me best, both here and especially back home, people I’ve served with, including people that I’ve been on opposite ends politically with, who know the truth and know what’s in my heart, they’re the ones who I think speak the best.”

Scalise’s comment was an apparent reference to remarks by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., the only black member of the Louisiana congressional delegation. Richmond said last week he does not “think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body.”

Richmond said he has worked closely with Scalise and “I am not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family.”

House Speaker John Boehner offered a similar defense of Scalise, who became the House majority whip last year. Speaking at a news conference of Republican leaders that included Scalise, Boehner said, “He’s a decent, honest person who made a mistake. We’ve all made mistakes.”