2 black agents were wounded protecting Steve Scalise, who spoke at a white supremacist rally in 2002


Two Capitol Police special agents who were wounded while protecting Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) during Wednesday's shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, have been identified as Crystal Griner and David Bailey, USA Today reported.

Both agents appear to be African-American, according to NBC News' Trymaine Lee. Scalise — the House majority whip — spoke at a rally in 2002 hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a white supremacist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke.

The irony of two black law enforcement officials putting their lives on the line for a man with such racist affiliations is just the latest grim development in an already disturbing saga. Scalise was practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game with several aides and fellow lawmakers Wednesday when James T. Hodgkinson — a left-wing activist with a history of domestic violence — opened fire on the group with a rifle.

Scalise remains in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center after sustaining a single gunshot wound to the left hip. Agents Griner and Bailey had been assigned to protect the congressman, and returned fire when Hodgkinson started shooting. Hodgkinson died from wounds sustained in the ensuing gunfire. Griner was shot in the ankle, and Bailey was released after being treated for minor injuries.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) — the speaker of the House — praised both agents for their bravery during a speech on the House floor Wednesday.

"We are, as ever, awed by the tremendous bravery of the Capitol Police," Ryan said, according to USA Today. "It is clear to me, based on various eyewitness accounts that without these two heroes — Agent Bailey and Agent Griner — many lives would have been lost."

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Scalise, for his part, has a murky history when it comes to race. In 2014, he confirmed reports that he'd spoken at a white supremacist rally 12 years earlier at the invitation of two of David Duke's longtime associates, Howie Farrell and Kenny Knight.

Scalise denied that he knew EURO was a hate group at the time. Duke told the Washington Post that he wasn't sure whether Scalise knew, but local news reports from the week leading up to the event detailed the controversy surrounding it — including the hotel where the gathering was to be held publicly distancing itself from the group. It would have been difficult for Scalise or one of his staffers to miss.

In a separate report from the New York Times, Louisiana-based political reporter Stephanie Grace is also quoted as saying that Scalise once described himself to her as "David Duke without the baggage" when outlining his political views.

"I think he meant he supported the same policy ideas as David Duke, but he wasn't David Duke, that he didn't have the same feelings about certain people as David Duke did," she explained.

Agents Griner and Bailey are both on track to recover from their wounds. President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that Scalise was "in very tough shape" when he visited him in the hospital.

Correction: June 19, 2017