The Rise of David Duke

The Rise of David Duke

The Rise of David Duke

The Rise of David Duke

Excerpt

Whacked-out supporters of David Duke would insist later that I had been brought to New Orleans as part of a Jewish conspiracy to bring him down. But when New Orleans daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, hired me in October 1988, I was a free-lance reporter covering the presidential election in Venezuela and had never heard of Duke, who was running a little-noticed presidential campaign of his own on the independent Populist party ticket.

I cannot remember exactly when I first heard of Duke. It was undoubtedly soon after I arrived in New Orleans in mid-January 1989. With his past as a grand wizard of a Ku Klux Klan faction, Duke was making news as a state legislative candidate from the New Orleans suburb of Metairie. My first distinct memory of him is from a couple of days after he ran first in the January 21 primary. I had lunch that day with Ed Renwick, Louisiana's top pollster, to get a briefing on the state's politics, and I remember someone telling Renwick that the way to beat Duke was by emphasizing his Klan past.

The four-week runoff campaign drew considerable interest not only in New Orleans but throughout the state and country. I paid little attention to it. I was too busy getting settled in a new job in a new city. My only brush with the race came on a Sunday six days before the election when I covered a speech by Mordechai Levy, the head of the radical Jewish Defense Organization. Levy had come to New Orleans several days before to attack Duke, much to the consternation of Duke's opponents, who feared--correctly, it turned out--that he would create a backlash. I got the assignment only because, as the new kid on the block, I had to work on Sundays.

I don't remember my response, if any, to the news on February 18 that. Duke had won the election to the Louisiana state House of Representatives by 227 votes. The news, however, shocked the political establishment, and Duke's opponents began to ask themselves how he had pulled off the upset . . .

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