News by VICE

Protests rage as former Klansman David Duke debates fellow Senate candidates

by Tess Owen
Nov 2 2016, 9:44pm

CORRECTION (Nov. 3, 11:00 a.m.): An earlier version of this story mischaracterized remarks made by David Duke at a Louisiana Senate debate. Duke did not describe himself as a white supremacist and in fact said, “I am not a white supremacist.”

David Duke stirred extreme reactions both inside and outside the debate hall at New Orleans’ historically black Dillard University Wednesday night when the former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard appeared there to debate other candidates for the U.S. Senate.

Students protested outside the venue, as no audience members — or journalists — were allowed in, a decision that debate sponsor Raycom Media refused to attribute to Duke’s presence. Duke won a spot on the debate stage via his showing in a Raycom poll, just over the 5 percent needed to qualify.

And the event itself quickly surfaced Duke’s record. Just two minutes in, fellow candidate Caroline Fayard, a Democrat and a lawyer, called the former Louisiana State Representative a “bad guy” during her opening statements, and expressed a desire to “cut off the head of his hatred once and for all.”

Duke, 66, did not attempt to normalize his views in the presence of the more mainstream candidates, three of whom were Republicans and two of whom were Democrats. Instead, he spoke openly about his belief that “white human rights” are under attack.

John Snell, an anchor and political reporter at WVUE-TV who moderated the debate, pressed Duke about an anti-Semitic post on Duke’s website — it wasn’t written by Duke, however — questioning why the “Jew media is talking about… an 11-year-old private conversation Trump had with another celebrity about the perks of being able to kiss beautiful women.”

Snell asked Duke what CNN’s coverage of Trump had to do with the fact that anyone in the media or at the network might be Jewish.

“That gets to the heart of what the problem I have with you,” Duke responded. “There is a problem in America with a very strong powerful tribal group that dominates our media and our international banking.”

Duke then clarified his statement to make sure viewers knew that his anti-Semitism was a very considered position.

“I’m not opposed to all Jews,” he said. “I’m against Jews and anyone else that puts their own interest of some other place over our own country…. dominating the media, which is teaching and inspiring black people to hate white people and inciting them to violence.”

It was not the only time Snell and Duke clashed:

Duke also had choice words for Hillary Clinton, bypassing the calls to “Lock her up” often heard at Trump events and going straight to the death penalty.

“Syria is a country with 3 million Christians,” he said. “It was just admitted by Clinton that our government’s been supporting Saudi Arabia, which she admits was supporting ISIS. The lady should be getting the electric chair, being charged with treason.”

As the hourlong debate lurched on, protests outside the auditorium escalated and turned violent, with campus police using pepper spray on demonstrators.

“There was a demo out here, by the Black Lives Matter radicals,” Duke said during his closing statements. “Why is that? Because I stand up for you. The Black Lives Matter movement calls for the murder of police officers and death to police. I defend you and our country from these radicals who are destroying America.

“This is the tipping point,” Duke added. “We are getting outnumbered and outvoted.”

In her closing statement, Fayard talked about why she thought all of her opponents were unfit for the office — including her most well-known opponent. “We have a snake in Duke,” she said.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Duke has about a 4 percent chance of winning the Senate race.

Dillard University released a statement ahead of the event saying it did not endorse Duke’s candidacy.