In one of the more bizarre campaign debates in history, the presence of David Duke was a huge topic of discussion and disgust at a debate for top U.S. Senate candidates in Louisiana on Nov. 2.
The Anti-Defamation League office in New Orleans expressed “deep concern” about “troubling anti-Semitic statements” by the former Ku Klux Klan leader at the debate, which was held at Dillard University, a historically-black institution in New Orleans.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, South Central ADL regional director, said “It was shocking to see what should have been a serious Senate debate on issues of importance to Louisiana and our country tarnished by ugly anti-Semitic statements from David Duke. There is no place for such hate and bigotry in this state, and Duke owes us all a meaningful and credible apology.”
The statement added that as a 501c3 non-profit, ADL does not endorse or oppose candidates.
Duke, who was a controversial state representative in the early 1990s and was defeated in a 1992 gubernatorial race against Edwin Edwards where Edwards supporters urged people to “vote for the crook, it’s important,” has numerous ties to white supremacist and Holocaust denial groups.
Raycom Media, which sponsored the debate, had set a threshold of 5 percent support in its survey for those invited to participate. There were 24 announced candidates for the Senate seat, six made the cutoff.
Raycom received a great deal of criticism when Duke hit 5.1 percent in its poll, as many condemned the inclusion of Duke and some charged it was just to draw attention to the debate.
It was decided by Raycom that there would be no public audience at the debate, and Dillard’s administration urged students not to attend. Protestors clashed with police before the debate as some students tried to gain access to the auditorium.
Duke referenced the protestors as being Black Lives Matter “radicals.”
Moderator John Snell asked Duke about his website references to “CNN Jews.” While Duke insisted he is “not opposed to all Jews,” he started a rant about the “problem in America with a very strong, powerful tribal group that dominates our media and dominates our international banking.”
He also said the media “puts out hate propaganda against white people.”
Candidate Caroline Fayard called Duke a “snake” that “slithered out of the swamp” and asked voters to “cut the head off of his hatred.”
State Treasurer and frontrunner John Kennedy sparked a shouting match by referencing Duke’s felony conviction, to which Duke responded that he had been targeted and was the victim of a biased media. Duke had been convicted of mail fraud and filing false tax returns, for telling supporters he was in financial trouble, and then using the funds for investments and gambling vacations.