Former Klan Leader David Duke On His Senate Run And Donald Trump
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The many people inspired by Donald Trump's presidential campaign include David Duke. The former leader of the Ku Klux Klan made that clear one day after the Republican convention. He filed to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. He says Donald Trump's slogan, America first, is a slogan Duke has used himself.
DAVID DUKE: Well, yeah, I used it in 1992 when I ran for president, America first. And it's simply the idea of putting American interests first for American people.
INSKEEP: Trump's campaign has disavowed Duke's support more than once, yet that has not stopped some white supremacists from attaching themselves to Trump. We listened to the Klansman because he represents the way white supremacists do that. Duke says Trumps attacks on Muslims and illegal immigration have brought Duke's own beliefs into the mainstream. He says he's advocating for European-Americans, as he puts it, while running for Senate.
DUKE: There's a lot of political correctness in this country. And people don't want to talk about their political views. And in fact, that's why we have, in this country, a secret ballot.
INSKEEP: I want to ask about a little bit of news of this week. I'm sure you're closely following it. Trump has been criticized a great deal this week. And a number of reasonably prominent Republicans have said they're actually going to vote for Hillary Clinton - Richard Hanna, a congressman from upstate New York, Maria Comella, longtime Republican strategist for Chris Christie. What are you thinking about Donald Trump after these last few days?
DUKE: As a United States senator, nobody will be more supportive of his legislative agenda, his Supreme Court agenda, than I will. I'm 100 percent behind it. I have a long record of being in favor of protecting our borders from this massive immigration. So I think that those Republicans, or those so-called conservatives, they are betraying the principles of the Republican Party and certainly conservatism.
INSKEEP: But Maria Comella, this Chris Christie aide - former aide who said that she's going to vote for Clinton, said that she just couldn't remain silent anymore for political reasons, when faced with bigotry, racism or inflammatory rhetoric.
DUKE: You know, these are just nothing more than epithets and vicious attacks. Donald Trump is not a racist. And the truth is, in this country, if you simply defend the heritage of European-American people, then you're automatically a racist. There's massive racist - racial discrimination against European-Americans. And that's the reality.
INSKEEP: You know that white people in this country still have the overwhelming preponderance of wealth and power, right?
DUKE: Well, they don't really have the overwhelming - not European-American history. No, they don't. I mean, Hollywood is not controlled by traditional European-American heritage.
INSKEEP: Are you referring to Jews when you...
DUKE: Well, they're from the Middle East. That's not European. That's not European, is it? That's Middle-Eastern. And they have a particular orientation for their positions and their programs.
INSKEEP: David Duke went on for a while in our conversation, unspooling old racist theories that he said were not racist. He said Europeans built America, even though his own state was built in large part by the descendants of Africans. He wrote Jews out of Europe's history, as we heard. He said Jews control the content of movies and even pay for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Some critics see echoes of discredited tales like these in some gestures by Donald Trump. On Twitter, Trump posted an image of Hillary Clinton, piles of cash and an apparent Star of David. He later said it was just a star. Trump once said on TV he would have to research before denouncing the KKK. Though on other occasions, he has explicitly disavowed Duke. That led to a question for Duke.
How do you read Trump's statements toward you?
DUKE: I would hope - you know, I don't know. Donald Trump has to run his own campaign. I have to run my own campaign.
INSKEEP: This is my question, though. It sounds like you are with Trump. Do you feel that Trump is with you?
DUKE: You know, I don't know if he's with me or not. But I would hope that he and others would realize that the same lies they make about him is what the what they say about me. I've always said that I'm a - for equal rights for all people, but I also believe that European-Americans shouldn't be facing discrimination either. And I'm really sick and tired of this very vicious, anti-white narrative in our national media, in our movies.
INSKEEP: The Trump campaign has made statements, formal statements, disavowing you and people like you. And the chairman of the state Republican Party in Louisiana - who's a gentleman who's been on this program - has been very negative towards you as well and said, we want no part of your candidacy. What do you say to people like that?
DUKE: Well, look, Donald Trump can say it's his campaign. He should say whatever he wants to say. We've done analysis of what's going on here in Louisiana. We've already polled inside the Trump voters, and we know that we're going to carry 75 to 80 percent of those who are going to vote for Trump.
INSKEEP: You think Trump voters are your voters?
DUKE: Well, of course they are because I represent the ideas of preserving this country and the heritage of this country. And I think Trump represents that as well.
INSKEEP: David Duke, thanks very much.
DUKE: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: Former Klansman David Duke, who's running for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.