Former KKK Leader David Duke Blames Debate Protests On Black Lives Matter 'Radicals'
Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke drew protesters to a U.S. Senate candidate debate in Louisiana tonight.
He's in a crowded field to replace Republican Senator David Vitter, and earned enough support in the polls to make the cut for this final debate, hosted by Raycom Media at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.
The six candidates appeared in a largely empty auditorium. Outside, students and other protesters shouted "Let us in!" as they pushed against doors to get into the building.
"No Duke, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.," they chanted.
Dillard officials say they didn't know who would be participating when they agreed to rent the hall. The administration did ask students not to attend. Seconds before the debate was set to start, a few students pushed in a back door but they were pepper sprayed by police and forced back out.
From the debate stage, Duke acknowledged the protests and blamed it on the Black Lives Matter "radicals."
"It's time we stand up now," he said. "We're getting outnumbered and outvoted in our own nation."
Duke is one of about two dozen candidates vying for Vitter's Senate seat. Louisiana has an open primary so candidates of all parties are on the ballot Election Day. If no one gets a majority, a December runoff will determine the winner.
Even before the debate, this Senate race has been colorful in the way that Louisiana politics can be. One candidate suggested he would prefer drinking weedkiller over Obamacare; there was an ad starring a terrorist goat; and there have been allegations of prostitution — something that has dogged the incumbent Vitter, who lost the governor's race last year to Democrat John Bel Edwards.
The controversial Duke has not had a major presence in the race, yet he still pulled in enough support – just over 5 percent in a poll — to be one of the six candidates on the final debate stage.
The leading contenders are Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, GOP Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming, and two Democrats – Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and attorney Caroline Fayard.
Duke, a former one-term state lawmaker first gained national attention when he ran for Louisiana governor in 1991. He lost to Edwin Edwards in a campaign that featured bumper stickers that said "Vote for the Crook – It's Important."
This year, Duke's candidacy comes with a new focus on white nationalists who have supported Donald Trump in the presidential race.
Trump has disavowed Duke's support. But earlier this year, Duke told Morning Edition that he and Trump represent the same thing — "the ideas of preserving this country and the heritage of this country."
In the debate, Duke denied that he is a white supremacist.