Former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke took part in a debate Wednesday night at the historically black Dillard University in New Orleans.
Founded in 1869, the 1,185-student Dillard University played host to six candidates vying for an open U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. To participate in the debate, candidates needed to come in with at least five percent or higher in a poll developed by the debates sponsor, Raycom Media. Duke polled in at 5.1 percent, a number that would be disputed by Dillard’s president Walter M. Kimbrough. Kimbrough alleged that Raycom rigged the election in order to improve ratings for the televised event, via WBRZ-TV. Raycom Media prevented students and media from attending the debate, with reporters having to watch the debate on television in a separate room.
After joining the KKK in 1967, Duke gained more national exposure in 1974 when he became the Grand Wizard of the organization. In 1980, Duke left the KKK to create the National Association for the Advancement of White People, a white nationalist organization. While continuing to participate in the white nationalist movement by releasing podcasts and articles for his website and publishing numerous books, Duke has been in national news recently, not only for his run at U.S. Senate but for his support of Donald Trump.
“Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” said Duke on his radio show.
Trump, recently backed by The Crusader, a newspaper affiliated with the KKK, has done his best to publicly distance himself from white nationalists and Duke. Trump initially refused to condemn Duke’s support, instead claiming ignorance to Duke or his movement.
Duke, who can also add antisemitic conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier to his list of titles, announced that he would be running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in July via a video. In Duke’s video, he promised to defend European Americans. Duke’s announcement to run for U.S. Senate was immediately criticized and denounced by the GOP.
Dillard students furious that their University would serve as a site for Duke to spread his views protested his arrival hours before the debate. Upon the arrival of what was believed to be a police escort carrying Duke, students who were linking arms had to be physically separated by police via the St Louis Post-Dispatch. The roughly 70 protesters continued their displays during the debate, at times trying to forcefully enter the building in which the debate was taking place. Pepper spray was used by police on unruly protesters and at least four people were detained and later released by campus police via the New Orleans Advocate.
Those on the debate stage attempting to replace Republican Senator David Vitter were Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, GOP Congressmen Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, attorney Caroline Fayard, and Duke.
While Duke is a long-shot to win the Senate seat, much of the debate focused on him. Some candidates opted to try their hardest to ignore Duke, while others like Kennedy called him a “liar” or Fayard who called Duke a “snake.” Duke erupted verbally several times, answering questions well over his time limit and arguing with moderator John Snell. In addition to Duke’s argument with Snell, he also went on a rant in which he mentioned that Jewish people control banking and the media via Huffington Post. Amidst all of Duke’s remarks, perhaps the most outrageous was his denial that he is a white supremacist per National Public Radio.
Duke acknowledged the protests on Dillard’s campus and blamed it on Black Lives Matter “radicals.”
After the debate was over, Duke lingered on the stage, speaking to an empty room.
[Featured Image by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]