David Duke recently announced his candidacy for the United States Senate, crediting the rise of Donald Trump in his decision to do so. Duke, a longtime white supremacist and anti-Semite, has predictably centered his campaign around the needs of white people — or as he irritatingly refers to us, “European-Americans.”
Naturally, Duke’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan is being reported on by the media. In an August 16, 2016 interview with Red Ice Radio host Henrik Palmgren, Duke not only dismissed his past as “irrelevant,” but admitted to viewing his time in the Klan as a badge of honor.
Palmgren urged Duke to talk about the more unsavory aspects of his past, pointing out that news outlets would bring up his Klan and American Nazi Party membership — facts that Palmgren considers to be “smears.” Duke obliged, but not before claiming to have been “right” about the consequences of immigration and affirmative action.
“And by the way, the KKK thing is totally irrelevant,” he said, “except for the fact that, as a young man, I joined a non-violent group to stand up for my heritage because I realized my heritage was at stake. This is not something to be ashamed about, it’s something to be proud about. It really isn’t relevant to my identity.”
He even joked that he’s “thinking about adding ‘KKK’ to my birth certificate,” before blasting the media for constantly bringing up his ties to the hate group.
In fact, Duke whined, it’s hypocritical of the media to do so, since they never badgered the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) about his membership in the Klan.
Of course, Duke’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t some youthful dalliance, nor was he some two-bit player in their operation. In 1974 he officially founded the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKKK).
With Duke at the helm as “Grand Wizard,” the KKKK expanded its membership to women and Catholics, but also intensified the group’s focus on anti-Jewish bigotry — which some have dubbed the Klan’s “Nazification.”
In a 1978 column in The Crusader, the KKKK’s official newsletter, Duke said that the Klan’s goals must be the “separation of the white and black races” and freeing the media and government from “subservient Jewish interests.”
When Duke stepped down as head of the KKKK in 1980, he issued a statement praising his time with the organization as “the most fulfilling and exciting [years] of my life.” This occurred just as Duke was creating yet another white supremacist group: the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP).
And it is this that differentiates David Duke from Robert Byrd. Byrd, when he was younger, was an extremely racist political figure. But, he came to overcome his racism and regret his time with the Klan. Byrd apologized for his membership in the KKK on numerous occasions, calling it “the greatest mistake I ever made.”
His moral awakening occurred after the death of his grandson, at which point he reflected on how African-Americans loved their own children and grandchildren as much as he loved his.
On the other hand, the only thing that’s changed about David Duke is his face. On the inside he’s the same Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying racist he’s always been. Or, as anti-racist activist Tim Wise put it, Duke is “still Nazi after all these years.”