David Ernest Duke (born July 1, 1950) is an American white supremacist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, far-right politician, convicted felon, and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. From 1989 to 1992, he was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for the Republican Party. His politics and writings are largely devoted to promoting conspiracy theories about Jews, such as Holocaust denial and Jewish control of academia, the press, and the financial system. The Anti-Defamation League has described Duke as promoting white supremacist views and as "perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite".
|Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives|
from the 81st district
February 18, 1989 – January 13, 1992
|Preceded by||Chuck Cusimano|
|Succeeded by||David Vitter|
|Grand Wizard of the|
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Don Black|
David Ernest Duke
July 1, 1950
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1989–1999, 2016–present)|
American Nazi (before 1975)
Chloê Eleanor Hardin
(m. 1974; div. 1984)
|Education||Louisiana State University (BA)|
Duke unsuccessfully stood as Democratic candidate for state legislature during the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in his campaign for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. After failing to gain any traction within the Democratic Party, Duke left and successfully gained the presidential nomination of the minor Populist Party. In December 1988, he became a Republican and claimed to have become a born-again Christian, while nominally renouncing antisemitism and racism. He soon won his only elected office, a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives. He then ran unsuccessful but competitive campaigns for several more offices, including United States Senate in 1990 and Governor of Louisiana in 1991. His campaigns were denounced by national and state Republican leaders, including President George H. W. Bush. He mounted a minor challenge to President Bush in 1992.
By the late 1990s, Duke had abandoned his pretense of rejecting racism and antisemitism, and began to openly promote racist and neo-Nazi viewpoints. He then began to devote himself to writing about his political views, both in newsletters and later on the Internet. In his writings, he denigrates African Americans and other ethnic minorities, and promotes conspiracy theories about a Jewish plot to control America and the world. He continued to run for public office through 2016; however, following his reversion to open neo-Nazism, his candidacies were not competitive.
During the 1990s, Duke defrauded his political supporters by pretending to be in dire financial straits and soliciting money for basic necessities. At the time, Duke was in fact financially secure and used the money for recreational gambling. In December 2002, Duke pleaded guilty to felony fraud and subsequently served a 15-month sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Big Spring in Texas.
Duke was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Maxine (née Crick) and David Hedger Duke, the younger of two children. As the son of an engineer for Shell Oil Company, Duke frequently moved with his family around the world. During 1954, they lived a short time in the Netherlands before settling in an all-white area of New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1955. His mother was an alcoholic; his father permanently left in 1966 for Laos taking a job with United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While in New Orleans, Duke attended the Clifton L. Ganus School, a staunchly conservative church of Christ sponsored school. He attributed the start of his segregationist awakening as being started during his research for an eighth-grade project at this school. After his Freshman year, Duke transferred to Warren Easton senior high in New Orleans. For his junior year, he attended Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. His senior year, he was back in New Orleans, at integrated John F. Kennedy High School, and by the time he graduated was already a member of the Klan.
In 1964, Duke began his involvement in radical right politics after attending a Citizens' Councils meeting and reading Carleton Putnam's pro-segregation books, later citing Race and Reason: A Yankee View, 1961, as being responsible for his "enlightenment". Putnam's book asserted the genetic superiority of whites. Also during his adolescence, Duke began to read books about Nazism and the Third Reich, and his speeches at CCA meetings began to be more explicitly pro-Nazi. This was enough to gain him disapproval from some members who were more anti-black racists rather than antisemitic. While attending Riverside Military Academy, his class was disciplined after Duke was found to be in possession of a Nazi flag and, in public school, he vociferously protested the lowering of the flag after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In the late 1960s, Duke met William Luther Pierce, the leader of the neo-Nazi and white nationalist National Alliance, who would remain a lifelong influence on him. Duke joined the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1967.
In 1968, Duke enrolled at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. In 1970, he formed a white student group called the White Youth Alliance that was affiliated with the National Socialist White People's Party. He appeared at a demonstration in Nazi uniform carrying a sign reading "Gas the Chicago 7" (a group of left-wing anti-war activists Kunstler had defended) and "Kunstler is a Communist Jew" to protest lawyer William Kunstler's appearance at Tulane University in New Orleans. Picketing and holding parties on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, he became known on the LSU campus for wearing a Nazi uniform. While a student at LSU, Duke traveled on a road trip to an American Nazi Party conference in Virginia with white supremacists Joseph Paul Franklin (later convicted of multiple acts of racial and antisemitic terrorism and executed for serial murder) and Don Black.
Duke says that he spent nine months in Laos, calling it a "normal tour of duty". He joined his father, who remained working there, and had asked his son to visit during the summer of 1971. His father helped him gain a job teaching English to Laotian military officers, from which he was dismissed after six weeks when he drew a Molotov cocktail on the blackboard. He also claimed to have gone behind enemy lines 20 times at night to drop rice to anti-communist insurgents in planes flying 10 feet (3.0 m) off the ground, narrowly avoiding receiving a shrapnel wound. Two Air America pilots who were in Laos at that time said that the planes only flew during the day and that they also flew no less than 500 feet (150 m) from the ground. One pilot suggested that it might have been possible for Duke to have gone on a safe "milk run" once or twice but no more than that. Duke was also unable to recall the name of the airfield that he had used.
1972 arrest in New Orleans
In January 1972, Duke was arrested in New Orleans for inciting a riot. Several racial confrontations broke out that month in the city, including one at the Robert E. Lee Monument involving Duke, Addison Roswell Thompson—a perennial segregationist candidate for governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans—and his 89-year-old friend and mentor, Rene LaCoste (not to be confused with the French tennis player René Lacoste). Thompson and LaCoste dressed in Klan robes for the occasion and placed a Confederate flag at the monument. The Black Panthers began throwing bricks at the two men, but police arrived in time to prevent serious injury.
In 1972, Duke was charged with soliciting campaign funds for presidential candidate George Wallace and then keeping the proceeds. He was also charged with filling glass containers with a flammable liquid, banned under a New Orleans ordinance. Both charges were eventually dropped.
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
In 1974, Duke founded the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKKK), shortly after graduating from LSU. He became the youngest ever grand wizard of the KKKK in 1976. Duke first received broad public attention during this time, as he endeavored to market himself in the mid-1970s as a new brand of Klansman: well-groomed, engaged, and professional. Duke also reformed the organization, promoting nonviolence and legality, and, for the first time in the Klan's history, women were accepted as equal members and Catholics were encouraged to apply for membership. Duke would repeatedly insist that the Klan was "not anti-black" but rather "pro-white" and "pro-Christian". Duke told the British Daily Telegraph newspaper that he left the Klan in 1980 because he disliked its associations with violence and could not stop the members of other Klan chapters from doing "stupid or violent things". It was asserted by Julia Reed in The New York Review of Books in April 1992 that Duke was forced to leave the Klan after selling a copy of its membership records to a rival Klan leader who was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informer.
Political and ideological activities
Duke first ran for a seat in the Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat from a Baton Rouge district in 1975. During his campaign, he was allowed to speak on the college campuses of Vanderbilt University, Indiana University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, and Tulane University. He received 11,079 votes, one-third of those cast.
In the late 1970s, Duke was accused by several Klan officials of stealing the organization's money. "Duke is nothing but a con artist", Jack Gregory, Duke's Florida state leader, told the Clearwater Sun after Duke allegedly refused to turn over proceeds from a series of 1979 Klan rallies to the Knights. Another Klan official under Duke, Jerry Dutton, told reporters that Duke had used Klan funds to purchase and refurbish his home in Metairie. Duke later justified the repairs by saying most of his home was used by the Klan.
He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination during the 1980 presidential election. Despite being six years too young to be qualified to run for president Duke attempted to place his name onto the ballot in twelve states stating that he wanted to be a power broker who could "select issues and form a platform representing the majority of this country" at the Democratic National Convention. He pled guilty in 1979, to disturbing the peace when he led seventy to one hundred Klansmen to surround police vehicles in a Metairie hotel parking lot in September 1976, and was fined $100 and given a three-month suspended sentence. Duke and James K. Warner had originally been convicted on that charge in 1977, but the Louisiana Supreme Court had reversed the ruling due to the state having introduced illegal evidence. Duke was arrested for illegally entering Canada in order to discuss third-world immigration into Canada on a talk show.
He left the Ku Klux Klan in 1980, after he was accused of trying to sell the organization's mailing list for $35,000. He founded the National Association for the Advancement of White People and served as its president after leaving the Klan. Using the group's newsletter, he promoted Holocaust denial literature for sale such as The Hoax of the Twentieth Century and Did Six Million Really Die?.
Duke allegedly conducted a direct-mail appeal in 1987, using the identity and mailing-list of the Georgia Forsyth County Defense League without permission. League officials described it as a fundraising scam.
1988 presidential campaign
In 1988, Duke ran initially in the Democratic presidential primaries. His campaign had limited impact, with one minor exception — as the only candidate on the ballot, he won the little-known New Hampshire vice presidential primary. Duke, having failed to gain much traction as a Democrat, then sought and gained the presidential nomination of the Populist Party, an organization founded by Willis Carto. He appeared on the ballot for president in 11 states and was a write-in candidate in some other states, some with Trenton Stokes of Arkansas for vice president, and on other state ballots with Floyd Parker, a physician from New Mexico, for vice president. He received just 47,047 votes, for 0.04% of the national popular vote.
1989: Successful run in special election for Louisiana House seat
In 1988, Republican state representative Charles Cusimano of Metairie resigned his District 81 seat to become a 24th Judicial District Court judge, and a special election was called early in 1989 to select a successor. Duke entered the race to succeed Cusimano and faced several opponents, including fellow Republicans John Spier Treen, a brother of former governor David C. Treen; Delton Charles, a school board member; and Roger F. Villere Jr., who operates Villere's Florist in Metairie. Duke finished first in the primary with 3,995 votes (33.1%). As no one received a majority of the vote in the first round, a runoff election was required between Duke and Treen, who polled 2,277 votes (18.9%) in the first round of balloting. Treen's candidacy was endorsed by U.S. president George H. W. Bush, former president Ronald Reagan, and other prominent Republicans, as well as Democrats Victor Bussie (president of the Louisiana AFL–CIO) and Edward J. Steimel (president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and former director of the "good government" think tank, the Public Affairs Research Council). Duke, however, criticized Treen on a statement the latter had made indicating a willingness to entertain higher property taxes, anathema in that suburban district. Duke, with 8,459 votes (50.7%), defeated Treen, who polled 8,232 votes (49.3%). He served in the House from 1989 until 1992.
Freshman legislator Odon Bacqué of Lafayette, a No Party member of the House, stood alone in 1989 when he attempted to deny seating to Duke on the grounds that the incoming representative had resided outside his district at the time of his election. When Treen failed in a court challenge in regard to Duke's residency, Duke was seated. Lawmakers who opposed Duke said that they had to defer to his constituents, who narrowly chose Duke as representative.
As state representative
Duke took his seat on the same day as Jerry Luke LeBlanc of Lafayette Parish (who won another special election, held on the same day as the Duke-Treen runoff, to choose a successor to Kathleen Blanco), the future governor who was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Duke and LeBlanc were sworn in separately.
Colleague Ron Gomez of Lafayette stated that Duke, as a short-term legislator, was "so single minded, he never really became involved in the nuts and bolts of House rules and parliamentary procedure. It was just that shortcoming that led to the demise of most of his attempts at lawmaking."
One legislative issue pushed by Duke was the requirement that welfare recipients be tested for the use of narcotics. The recipients had to show themselves to be drug-free to receive state and federal benefits under his proposal.
Gomez, a longtime journalist, recalls having met and interviewed Duke in the mid-1970s when Duke was a state senate candidate:
He was still in his mid-20s and very non-descript. Tall and slimly built, he had a very prominent nose, flat cheek bones, a slightly receding chin and straight dark brown hair. The interview turned out to be quite innocuous, and I hadn't thought about it again until Duke came to my legislative desk, and we shook hands. Who was this guy? Tall and well-built with a perfect nose, a model's cheek bones, prominent chin, blue eyes and freshly coiffed blond hair, he looked like a movie star. He obviously didn't remember from the radio encounter, and I was content to leave it at that.
Consistent with Gomez's observation, Duke in the latter 1980s reportedly had his nose thinned and chin augmented. Following his election to the Louisiana House of Representatives, he shaved his mustache. Gomez, in his 2000 autobiography, wrote about Duke:
He once presented a bill on the floor, one of the few which he had managed to get out of committee. He finished his opening presentation and strolled with great self-satisfaction back up the aisle to his seat. In his mind, he had spoken, made his presentation and that was that. Before he had even reached his desk and re-focused on the proceedings, another first-term member had been recognized for the floor and immediately moved to table the bill. The House voted for the motions effectively killing the bill. That and similar procedures were used against him many times.
Gomez said that he recalls Duke obtaining the passage of only a single bill, legislation which prohibited movie producers or book publishers from compensating jurors for accounts of their court experiences.
Gomez added that Duke's "tenure in the House was short and uninspired. Never has anyone parlayed an election by such a narrow margin to such a minor position to such international prominence. He has run for numerous other positions without success but has always had some effect, usually negative, on the outcome."
[Duke's] new message was that he had left the Klan, shed the Nazi uniform he had proudly worn in many previous appearances, and only wanted to serve the people. He eliminated his high-octane anti-Semitic rhetoric. He was particularly concerned with the plight of "European-Americans." He never blatantly spoke of race as a factor but referred to the "growing underclass." He used the tried and true demagoguery of class envy to sell his message: excessive taxpayers' money spent on welfare, school busing practices, affirmative action... and set-aside programs. He also embraced a subject near and dear to every Jefferson Parish voter, protection of the homestead exemption.
1990 campaign for U.S. Senate
Though Duke had first hesitated about entering the Senate race, he made his announcement of candidacy for the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 6, 1990. Duke was the only Republican in competition against three Democrats, including incumbent U.S. senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport, whom Duke derided as "J. Benedict Johnston".
Former governor David Treen, whose brother, John Treen, Duke had defeated for state representative in 1989, called Duke's senatorial platform "garbage. ... I think he is bad for our party because of his espousal of Nazism and racial superiority."
The Republican Party officially endorsed state senator Ben Bagert of New Orleans in a state convention on January 13, 1990, but national GOP officials in October, just days before the primary election, concluded that Bagert could not win. To avoid a runoff between Duke and Johnston, the GOP decided to surrender the primary to Johnston. Funding for Bagert's campaign was halted, and after initial protest, Bagert dropped out two days before the election. With such a late withdrawal, Bagert's name remained on the ballot, but his votes, most of which were presumably cast as absentee ballots, were not counted. Duke received 43.51 percent (607,391 votes) of the primary vote to Johnston's 53.93 percent (752,902 votes).
Duke's views prompted some of his critics, including Republicans such as journalist Quin Hillyer, to form the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, which directed media attention to Duke's statements of hostility to blacks and Jews.
In a 2006 Financial Times editorial, Gideon Rachman recalled interviewing Duke's 1990 campaign manager, who said, "The Jews just aren't a big issue in Louisiana. We keep telling David, stick to attacking the blacks. There's no point in going after the Jews, you just piss them off and nobody here cares about them anyway."
1991 campaign for Governor of Louisiana
Despite repudiation by the Republican Party, Duke ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991. In the primary, Duke finished second to former governor Edwin W. Edwards in votes; thus, he faced Edwards in a runoff. In the initial round, Duke received 32% of the vote. Incumbent governor Buddy Roemer, who had switched from the Democratic to Republican parties during his term, came in third with 27% of the vote. Duke effectively killed Roemer's bid for reelection. Although Duke had a sizable core constituency of devoted supporters, many voted for him as a "protest vote" to register dissatisfaction with Louisiana's establishment politicians. In response to criticism for his past white supremacist activities, Duke's stock response was to apologize for his past and declare that he was a born-again Christian. During the campaign, Duke said he was the spokesman for the "white majority" and, according to The New York Times, "equated the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany with affirmative action programs in the United States".
The Christian Coalition of America, which exerted considerable impact on the Republican State Central Committee, was led in Louisiana by its national director and vice president, Billy McCormack, then the pastor of University Worship Center in Shreveport. The coalition was accused of having failed to investigate Duke in the early part of his political resurgence. By the time of the 1991 gubernatorial election, however, its leadership had withdrawn support from Duke. Despite Duke's status as the only Republican in the runoff, incumbent president George H. W. Bush (a Republican) opposed his candidacy and denounced him as a charlatan and a racist. White House chief of staff John H. Sununu stated, "The president is absolutely opposed to the kind of racist statements that have come out of David Duke now and in the past."
The Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism rallied against Duke's gubernatorial campaign. Beth Rickey, a moderate member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee and a PhD student at Tulane University, began to follow Duke to record his speeches and expose what she saw as instances of racist and neo-Nazi remarks. For a time, Duke took Rickey to lunch, introduced her to his daughters, telephoned her late at night, and tried to convince her of his worldview: the Holocaust was a myth, Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele was a medical genius, and that blacks and Jews were responsible for various social ills. Rickey released transcripts of their conversations to the press and also provided evidence establishing that Duke sold Nazi literature (including Mein Kampf) from his legislative office and attended neo-Nazi political gatherings while he held elective office.
Between the primary and the runoff, called the "general election" under Louisiana election rules (in which all candidates run on one ballot, regardless of party), white supremacist organizations from around the country contributed to Duke's campaign fund.
Duke's rise garnered national media attention. While he gained the backing of former Alexandria mayor John K. Snyder, Duke won few serious endorsements in Louisiana. Celebrities and organizations donated thousands of dollars to former Governor Edwin Edwards' campaign. Referencing Edwards' long-standing problem with accusations of corruption, popular bumper stickers read: "Vote for the Crook. It's Important", and "Vote for the Lizard, not the Wizard." When a reporter asked Edwards what he needed to do to triumph over Duke, Edwards replied with a smile: "Stay alive."
The runoff debate, held on November 6, 1991, received significant attention when journalist Norman Robinson questioned Duke. Robinson, who is African American, told Duke that he was "scared" at the prospect of Duke winning the election because of his history of "diabolical, evil, vile" racist and antisemitic comments, some of which he read to Duke. He then pressed Duke for an apology and when Duke protested that Robinson was not being fair to him, Robinson replied that he didn't think Duke was being honest. Jason Berry of the Los Angeles Times called it "startling TV" and the "catalyst" for the "overwhelming" turnout of black voters who helped Edwards defeat Duke.
Edwards received 1,057,031 votes (61.2%), while Duke's 671,009 votes represented 38.8% of the total. Duke nevertheless claimed victory, saying, "I won my constituency. I won 55% of the white vote", a statistic confirmed by exit polls. Duke, rather than Edwards, was on network television the following day; his rival refused to appear with him.
1992 Republican Party presidential candidate
Duke ran as a Republican in the 1992 presidential primaries, although Republican Party officials tried to block his participation. He received 119,115 (0.94%) votes in the primaries, but no delegates to the 1992 Republican National Convention.
A documentary film, Backlash: Race and the American Dream (1992), investigated Duke's appeal among some white voters. Backlash explored the demagogic issues of Duke's platform, examining his use of black crime, welfare, affirmative action and white supremacy and tied Duke to a legacy of other white backlash politicians, such as Lester G. Maddox and George Wallace, and the use in the successful 1988 presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush of these same racially themed hot buttons.
1996 campaign for U.S. Senate
When Johnston announced his retirement in 1996, Duke ran again for the U.S. Senate. He polled 141,489 votes (11.5%). Former Republican state representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge and Democrat Mary Landrieu of New Orleans, the former state treasurer, went into the general election contest. Duke was fourth in the nine-person, jungle primary race.
1999 campaign for U.S. House
A special election was held in Louisiana's First Congressional District following the sudden resignation of Republican incumbent Bob Livingston in 1999. Duke sought the seat as a Republican and received 19% of the vote. He finished a close third, thus failing to make the runoff. His candidacy was repudiated by the Republicans. Republican Party chairman Jim Nicholson remarked: "There is no room in the party of Lincoln for a Klansman like David Duke." Republican state representative David Vitter (later a U.S. senator) went on to defeat former governor Treen. Also in the race was the New Orleans Republican leader Rob Couhig.
New Orleans Protocol
Duke organized a weekend gathering of "European Nationalists" in Kenner, Louisiana. In an attempt to overcome the splintering and division in the white nationalist movement that had followed the death in 2002 of leader William Luther Pierce, Duke presented a unity proposal for peace within the movement and a better image for outsiders. His proposal was accepted and is now known as the New Orleans Protocol (NOP). It pledges adherents to a pan-European outlook, recognizing national and ethnic allegiance, but stressing the value of all European peoples. Signed by and sponsored by a number of white supremacist leaders and organizations, it has three provisions:
- Zero tolerance for violence.
- Honorable and ethical behavior in relations with other signatory groups. This includes not denouncing others who have signed this protocol. In other words, no enemies on the right.
- Maintaining a high tone in our arguments and public presentations.
Those who signed the pact on May 29, 2004, include Duke, Don Black, Paul Fromm, Willis Carto (whose Holocaust-denying The Barnes Review helped sponsor the event), Kevin Alfred Strom, and John Tyndall (signing as an individual, not on behalf of the British National Party).
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that the "high tone" of the NOP contrasted with statements at the event where the pact was signed, such as Paul Fromm's calling a Muslim woman "a hag in a bag" and Sam Dickson (from the Council of Conservative Citizens, another sponsor) speaking about the "very, very destructive" effect of opposing the Nazis in World War II—opposition that caused people to view Hitler's "normal, healthy racial values" as evil. The SPLC described the NOP as a "smokescreen", saying that "most of the conference participants' ire was directed at what they consider to be a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to destroy the white race through immigration and miscegenation".
Political activity (1999–2012)
In 2004, Duke's bodyguard, roommate, and longtime associate Roy Armstrong made a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, running as a Democrat, to serve Louisiana's First Congressional District. In the open primary, Armstrong finished second in the six candidate field with 6.69% of the vote, but Republican Bobby Jindal received 78.40%, thus winning the seat. Duke was the head advisor of Armstrong's campaign.
Duke claimed that thousands of Tea Party movement activists had urged him to run for president in 2012, and that he was seriously considering entering the Republican Party primaries. However, Duke ultimately did not contest the primaries won by Mitt Romney, who lost the presidential election to incumbent Barack Obama.
Donald Trump advocacy
In 2015, it was reported by the media that Duke endorsed then presidential nominee Donald Trump. Duke later clarified in an interview with The Daily Beast in August 2015 that while he viewed Trump as "the best of the lot", due to his stance on immigration, Trump's support for Israel was a deal breaker for him. Duke claimed that "Trump has made it very clear that he's 1,000 percent dedicated to Israel, so how much is left over for America?" In December 2015, Duke said Donald Trump speaks more radically than he does, advising that Trump's radical speech is both a positive and a negative.
In February 2016, Duke urged his listeners to vote Trump, saying that voting for anyone besides Donald Trump "is really treason to your heritage". Trump, Duke believed, was "by far the best candidate". When asked whether he renounced Duke's support, Trump responded "I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay?...I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about."
For the 2020 presidential election, Duke again expressed his preference for Donald Trump over Joe Biden, which was widely interpreted as an endorsement. Duke urged President Trump to replace his vice president Mike Pence with talk show host Tucker Carlson claiming such a ticket was the only way to "stop the commie Bolsheviks".
2016 campaign for U.S. Senate
On July 22, 2016, Duke announced that he was planning to run for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate seat in Louisiana being vacated by Republican David Vitter. He stated that he was running "to defend the rights of European Americans". He claimed that his platform has become the Republican mainstream and added, "I'm overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I've championed for years." However, Trump's campaign reaffirmed that Trump disavows Duke's support, and Republican organizations said they will not support him "under any circumstances". On August 5, 2016, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview between Duke and Steve Inskeep in which Duke claimed that there was widespread racism against European Americans, that they have been subject to vicious attacks in the media, and that Trump's voters were also his voters.
A Mason-Dixon poll released on October 20, 2016, showed Duke receiving support from 5.1% of voters in the state, barely clearing the 5% requirement for a candidate to be allowed to participate in a November 2 debate.
2020 United States presidential election endorsement
In February 2019, the media reported Duke had endorsed presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard for the Democratic ticket and changed his Twitter banner to a picture of Gabbard. He tweeted "Tulsi Gabbard for President. Finally a candidate who will actually put America First rather than Israel First!" Gabbard refused Duke's support: "I have strongly denounced David Duke's hateful views and his so-called 'support' multiple times in the past, and reject his support." Following Gabbard's defeat, Duke endorsed president Donald Trump for re-election.
We [Whites] desire to live in our own neighborhoods, go to our own schools, work in our own cities and towns, and ultimately live as one extended family in our own nation. We shall end the racial genocide of integration. We shall work for the eventual establishment of a separate homeland for African Americans, so each race will be free to pursue its own destiny without racial conflicts and ill will.
Duke promotes the white genocide conspiracy theory and explicitly claims that Jews are "organising white genocide". In 2017 he accused Anthony Bourdain of promoting white genocide.
An ADL profile of Duke states: "Although Duke denies that he is a white supremacist and avoids the term in public speeches and writings, the policies and positions he advocates state clearly that white people are the only ones morally qualified to determine the rights that should apply to other ethnic groups."
Claims of "Jewish supremacy"
In 2001, Duke promoted his book, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question in Russia. In this work, he purports to "examine and document elements of ethnic supremacism that have existed in the Jewish community from historical to modern times". The book is dedicated to Israel Shahak, a critical author of what Shahak saw as supremacist religious teachings in Jewish culture. Former Boris Yeltsin press minister Boris Mironov wrote an introduction for the Russian edition, printed under the title The Jewish Question Through the Eyes of an American. The work draws on the writings of Kevin B. MacDonald, including multiple uses of the same sources and citations.
The Anti-Defamation League office in Moscow urged the Moscow prosecutor to open an investigation into Mironov. The ADL office initiated a letter from Alexander Fedulov, a prominent member of the Duma, to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, urging a criminal case be opened against the author and the Russian publisher of Duke's book. In his letter, Fedulov described the book as antisemitic and a violation of Russian anti-hate crime laws. Around December 2001, the prosecutor's office closed the investigation of Boris Mironov and Jewish Supremacism. In a public letter, Yury Biryukov, First Deputy of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, stated that a psychological examination, which was conducted as a part of the investigation, concluded that the book and the actions of Boris Mironov did not break Russian hate-crime laws.
The ADL has described the book as antisemitic. At one time, the book was sold in the main lobby of the building of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament). The first printing of 5,000 copies sold out in several weeks. In 2004, the book was published in the United States.
After the publication in March 2006 of a paper on the Israel lobby by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, Duke praised the paper in a number of articles on his website, in his broadcasts, and on MSNBC's March 21 Scarborough Country program. According to The New York Sun, Duke said in an email, he was "surprised how excellent [the paper] is. It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American university essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since even before the war [in Iraq] even started. ...The task before us is to wrest control of America's foreign policy and critical junctures of media from the Jewish extremist Neocons that seek to lead us into what they expectantly call World War IV." Stephen Walt stated: "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world".
In 2015, after 47 Senate Republicans warned Iran that agreements made with the US that were not ratified by the Senate were liable to be repudiated by a future President, Duke told Fox News' Alan Colmes that the signatories "should become a Jew, put on a yarmulke because they are not Americans, they have sold their soul to the Jewish power in this country and the Jewish power overseas". His website has hosted articles by authors claiming that Jewish loan-sharks own the Federal Reserve Bank, and that Jews own Hollywood and the U.S. media.
Supposed "Zionist control"
In the post-9/11 issue of his newsletter, Duke wrote that "reason should tell us that even if Israeli agents were not the actual provocateurs behind the operation [on 9/11], at the very least they had prior knowledge. ...Zionists caused the attack America endured just as surely as if they themselves had piloted those planes. It was caused by the Jewish control of the American media and Congress."
In an interview for the Iranian Press TV on September 11, 2012, Duke said: "There are Israeli fingerprints all over the whole 9/11 aspect. ...Israel has a long record of terrorism against America... there are a lot of reasons that Israel wanted 9/11 to happen. Of the Iraq War, according to Duke, "The Zionists orchestrated and created this war in the media, the government, and international finance." In another appearance on Press TV the following year, Duke said Congress "is totally in the hands of the Zionists. The Zionists control the American government, lock, stock, and barrel." According to him, the supposed control of America by Jews is "the world’s greatest single problem".
Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel
Duke expressed support for Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel, a German emigrant in Canada. Duke made a number of statements supporting Zündel and his campaign of Holocaust denial. Zündel was deported from Canada to Germany and imprisoned in Germany on charges of inciting the masses to ethnic hatred. After Zündel died in August 2017, Duke referred to him as being a "very heroic and courageous European preservationist".
Activities in Ukraine and Russia (2005–2006)
In the 1990s, Duke traveled to Russia several times, meeting antisemitic Russian politicians such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Albert Makashov. In September 2005, Duke received a non-accredited "PhD in history" from the Ukrainian private university Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP), an institution described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as a "University of Hate". Duke's doctoral thesis was titled "Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism". However, the PhD program of MAUP was not accredited by the Higher Attestation Commission of Ukraine and is not accredited by that state body's successor, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, so the PhD diplomas issued by MAUP are not recognized by the Ukrainian state as real academic degrees.
The ADL has said that MAUP is the main source of antisemitic activity and publishing in Ukraine, and its "anti-Semitic actions" were "strongly condemned" by Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and various organizations.
Duke has taught a course on international relations and a history course at MAUP.
On June 3, 2005, Duke co-chaired a conference named "Zionism As the Biggest Threat to Modern Civilization" in Ukraine, sponsored by the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management. The conference was attended by several Ukrainian public figures and politicians, plus Israel Shamir described by the ADL as "an anti-Semitic writer".
On the weekend of June 8–10, 2006, Duke attended as a speaker at the international "White World's Future" conference in Moscow, which was coordinated and hosted by Pavel Tulayev.
Iranian Holocaust conference
From December 11–13, 2006, at the invitation of then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Duke took part in the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, an event held in Tehran questioning the Holocaust. "The Zionists have used the Holocaust as a weapon to deny the rights of the Palestinians and cover up the crimes of Israel", Duke told a gathering of nearly 70 participants. "This conference has an incredible impact on Holocaust studies all over the world", said Duke. According to Duke: "The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder."
Other affiliations and associations
In 1995, Don Black and Chloê Hardin, Duke's ex-wife, began a bulletin board system (BBS) called Stormfront. The website has become a prominent online forum for white nationalism, white separatism, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism, hate speech and racism. Duke is an active user of Stormfront, where he posts articles from his own website and polls forum members for opinions and questions. Duke has worked with Don Black on numerous occasions, including on Operation Red Dog (the attempted overthrowing of Dominica's government) in 1980. Duke continued to be involved with the website's radio station in 2019.
British National Party
instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity … that means basically to use the saleable words, as I say, freedom, security, identity, democracy. Nobody can criticise them. Nobody can come at you and attack you on those ideas. They are saleable.
Duke has written in praise of the alt-right, describing one broadcast as "fun and interesting" and another as "this great show". People for the American Way reported Duke championing the alt-right. Duke described them as "our people" when describing their role in Donald Trump's election as president.
There are also claims that while he is not an active member of the alt-right, he is an inspiration for the movement. The International Business Times described Duke as having "'Zieg-heiling acolytes in the so-called 'alt-right'". The Forward has said that Duke "paved the way" for the alt-right movement.
Legal difficulties and felony conviction
Tax fraud conviction and defrauding followers
On December 12, 2002, David Duke pleaded guilty to the felony charge of filing a false tax return under 26 U.S.C. § 7206 and mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 According to The New York Times: "Mr. Duke was accused of telling supporters that he was in financial straits, then misusing the money they sent him from 1993 to 1999. He was also accused of filing a false 1998 tax return... Mr. Duke used the money for personal investments and gambling trips... [T]he [supporter] contributions were as small as $5 and [according to the United States attorney, Jim Letten] there were so many that returning the money would be 'unwieldy.'"
Four months later, Duke was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and he served the time in Big Spring, Texas. He was also fined US$10,000 and ordered to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to pay money still owed for his 1998 taxes. Following his release in May 2004, he stated that his decision to take the plea bargain was motivated by the bias that he perceived in the United States federal court system and not his guilt. He said he felt the charges were contrived to derail his political career and discredit him to his followers, and that he took the safe route by pleading guilty and receiving a mitigated sentence rather than pleading not guilty and potentially receiving the full sentence.
The mail fraud charges stemmed from what prosecutors described as a six-year scheme to dupe thousands of his followers by asking for donations. Using the postal service, Duke appealed to his supporters for funds by fraudulently stating he was about to lose his house and his life savings. Prosecutors alleged that Duke raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in this scheme. Prosecutors also stipulated that in contrast to what he stated in the mailings, he sold his home at a hefty profit, had multiple investment accounts, and spent much of his money gambling at casinos.
2009 arrest in the Czech Republic
In April 2009, Duke traveled to the Czech Republic on invitation by a Czech neo-Nazi group known as Národní Odpor ("National Resistance") to deliver three lectures in Prague and Brno to promote the Czech translation of his book My Awakening.
He was arrested on April 23 on suspicion of "denying or approving of the Nazi genocide and other Nazi crimes" and "promotion of movements seeking suppression of human rights", which are crimes in the Czech Republic punishable by up to three years' imprisonment. At the time of his arrest, Duke was reportedly guarded by members of the Národní Odpor. The police released him early on April 25 on condition that he leave the country by midnight that same day.
Duke's first lecture had been scheduled at Charles University in Prague, but it was canceled after university officials learned that neo-Nazis were planning to attend. Some Czech politicians, including Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb, had previously expressed opposition to Duke's being allowed entrance into the Czech Republic.
In September 2009, the office of the District Prosecutor for Prague dropped all charges, explaining that there was no evidence that Duke had committed any crime.
2013 expulsion from Italy; Schengen Area ban
In 2013, an Italian court ruled in favor of expelling Duke from Italy. Duke, then 63, was living in the mountain village Valle di Cadore in northern Italy. Although Duke had been issued a visa to live there by the Italian embassy in Malta, Italian police later found that Switzerland had issued a residence ban against Duke that applied throughout Europe's Schengen Area.
To raise money in 1976, Duke (using the double pseudonym James Konrad and Dorothy Vanderbilt) wrote a self-help book for women, Finders-Keepers: Finding and Keeping the Man You Want. The book contains sexual, diet, fashion, cosmetic and relationship advice, and was published by Arlington Place Books, an offshoot of the National Socialist White People's Party. Tulane University history professor Lawrence N. Powell, who read a rare copy of the book given to him by journalist Patsy Sims, wrote that it includes advice on vaginal exercises, oral and anal sex and advocated adultery. The puritan-inclined Klan was shocked by Duke's writing. According to journalist Tyler Bridges, The Times-Picayune obtained a copy and traced its provenance to Duke, who compiled the content from women's self-help magazines. Duke has admitted using the pseudonym Konrad.
He also wrote African Atto under the pseudonym Mohammed X in 1970s, a martial arts guide for black militants; he claimed it was a means of developing a mailing list to keep watch over such activists.
While working in the White Youth Alliance, Duke met Chloê Eleanor Hardin, who was also active in the group. They remained companions throughout college and married in 1974. Hardin is the mother of Duke's two daughters, Erika and Kristin. The Dukes divorced in 1984, and Chloe moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, in order to be near her parents. There, she became involved with Duke's Klan friend Don Black, whom she later married. Duke rented out an apartment in Moscow beginning around 1999. He lived in Russia for five years. Duke currently resides in Mandeville, Louisiana.
In the media
Duke was banned from Facebook in 2018, over a year after his participation in the Unite the Right rally. Duke was banned from YouTube in late June 2020 for repeated violation of the platform's policies against hate speech, along with Richard Spencer and Stefan Molyneux. Duke's Twitter account was permanently suspended at the end of July 2020 for violating the company's rules on hateful conduct.
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David's version of how he came to his 'racialist' views begins as a freshman in high school. 'In those days I held liberal views because that's the pabulum that's fed to you,' he says now. 'Then one day a teacher assigned me to take the anti-integration argument in a report because she knew I was for it, and I finally found books like Race and Reason by Carlton Putnam, and that book had a big influence on me.'...The staff at Clifton Ganus School, where Duke was given the assignment he now sees as an epiphany, has been doing a lot of soul searching ever since Duke began to tell this story.
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As a student at LSU, [David] Duke wrote letters to the National Socialist White People’s Party, the group formerly known as the American Nazi Party. These Nazis invited Duke to their annual conference in Virginia and suggested that he carpool with two other white supremacists. Here’s the author, Eli Saslow. One of them was about his age. A guy named Joseph Paul Franklin. The other was about two or three years younger. A guy named Don Black. And they piled into this car and started driving, you know, at 800 miles up the highway. And over the course of those hours, these three kids became really close.
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Yesterday, the party moved quickly once again to disassociate itself from Duke. Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson declared: 'There is no room in the party of Lincoln for a Klansman like David Duke.'
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