Former Klu Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has received enough support for his Senate campaign in Louisiana to be included in a televised debate. The debate is scheduled to take place on Nov. 2 at New Orleans' Dillard University, a historically black college, where students say they are shocked and planning to respond.
Duke, who made waves early in the presidential race over his support for Donald Trump and later announced his run for Senate, has polled high enough to qualify for the Nov. 2 debate with race frontrunners John Kennedy, a Republican, and Foster Campbell, a Democrat, according to an ABC News report.
KKK through the years
Ku Klux Klan (KKK) throughout history
Ku Klux Klan (KKK) throughout history
1866: A wood engraving depicting two members of the Ku Klux Klan. The white sheet and hood were supposed to represent the ghosts of Confederate soldiers risen from the dead to seek revenge. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Kayne Township. Ku Klux Klan Wedding In New Jersey. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Long Island, NY-Ku Klux Klan with hands raised in oath during night meeting.
20th March 1922: Members of the white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan standing by an aeroplane, out of which they dropped publicity leaflets over Washington DC. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1/4/1923-Homestead, FL: Photo shows gathering of the Ku Klux Klan, members of the invisible empire, at Homestead, FL., thirty miles South of Miami, and within three miles of the Southern most point of the mainland of the United States. The Imperial Wizard of he Klan is somewhere in the group. But, he just won't make himself known.
Ku Klux Klan members hold a march in Washington, DC, on August 9, 1925.
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Ku Klux Klan Ritual At Atlanta In Usa During Thirties (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Over 100,000 people are expected in Washington for the Klan parade and gathering. Government buildings are all guarded in case of disorder. Photo shows members of the Women's K.K.K. of Virginia marching down Pennsylvania Ave.
5/07/98 PHOTOGRAPHER: Susan Biddle - TWP Wheaton, Md. BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Darryl Davis and his KKK collection Davis, a blues pianist, meets as many KKK guys as he can to find out why they are as they are. He has a collection of robes and other KKK items such as this medallion. (KU KLUX KLAN) (Photo by Susan Biddle/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
A young protester argues with Thom Robb during a Ku Klux Klan rally in Stephenville, Texas. Robb is the national director of the Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (Photo by ?? Greg Smith/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Don Black, wearing a suit and tie, with white-gowned Klan members in the background.
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Ku Klux Klan members supporting Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, San Francisco, California, as an African American man pushes signs back: 12 July 1964. Photographer: Warren K Leffler. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Parade of the Ku Klux Klan, in regalia and carrying the stars and stripes, through counties of Virginia bordering on the District of Columbia, America, 1926. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Ku Klux Klan members march through downtown Houston under heavy police protection. (Photo by Greg Smith/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) The Ku Klux Klan failed to make good its threat to parade through the streets of this town today and instead had a small parade in Neptune City and Neptune Township. Less than 3,000 men, women, and children marched in the parade, headed by Arthur H. Bell, Grand Dragon of the Realm of New Jersey. Some of the Klansmen were robed and masked, others wore their robes with hoods lifted. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Members of the Ku Klux Klan attend a demonstration in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. They are protesting against the Martin Luther King holiday. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Demonstration of the Ku Klux Klan (Photo by F. Carter Smith/Sygma via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 23: Jeffery Berry, national imperial wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (l.), Grand Dragon James Sheehy (nursing his would after being attacked), and other Klan members hold a rally at Foley Square near the New York State Supreme Court House. (Photo by Budd Williams/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
VALLEY FORGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Ku Klux Klan member shows off his tattoo during an American Nazi party member during American Nazi Party rally at Valley Forge National Park September 25, 2004 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of American Nazis from around the country were expected to attend. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
SHARPSBURG, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Members of the Confederate White Knights hold a flag during a rally at the Antietam National Battlefield September 7, 2013 near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Rosedale, Maryland Ku Klux Klan group held the rally to protest against the administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. immigration policies. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 18: Ku Klux Klan members take part in a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The KKK protested the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds, as law enforcement tried to prevent violence between the opposing groups. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Demostrators take part in a protest against asylum seekers brought to stay at a former army barracks in the Hennala district in Lahti late September 24, 2015. Demonstrators threw stones and launched fireworks at a bus full of asylum seekers arriving at a reception centre in Lahti in southern Finland, late on Thursday, Finnish media reported on Friday. Between 30 and 40 demonstrators, one in a white robe like those worn by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the United States, waved the Finnish flag and shouted abuse at the bus. Picture taken September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Heikki Ahonen/Lehtikuva ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN FINLAND.
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
The university, which agreed to host the debate before Duke qualified, has said it is contractually obligated to keep the event scheduled. On Monday, Dillard student leader Joseph Caldwell said there are plans to respond to the fact that an internationally known racist and white nationalist will get a speaking platform at an institution that has provided higher education opportunities predominantly to African-Americans in the Deep South since the end of slavery.
"David Duke is unacceptable and he's not welcome here," Caldwell, a 20-year-old sophomore and vice president of Dillard's Student Government Association, said in a phone interview.
"We are going to look at that as a student body and we're probably going to do something about it," he said.
Caldwell, an urban studies and human policy major, said the announcement shocked many students over the weekend. University officials did not meet with student body leaders before Dillard agreed in September to allow the debate to take place in George's Auditorium, part of the professional schools and sciences building.
David Grubb, a Dillard spokesman, said university President Walter Kimbrough and the board of trustees learned WVUE-TV had invited Duke to participate in the event on Thursday. While officials are in ongoing conversations about Duke's participation, pulling out of the event has not been part of those discussions, Grubb said in a phone interview Monday.
"It was a shock to us, just like it was to anyone else," Grubb said. With the coronation of Mister and Miss Dillard on Saturday and Founders Day convocation on Sunday, the university simply has not have the time to meet with student government leaders about Duke, the Grubb said.
In a statement released Saturday, Dillard ensured that it would work with the station to keep the event secure and professional. It also said Dillard "does not endorse the candidacy of any of the candidates who will appear at the debate."
Important News! I qualified for the U.S. Senate most important debate in Louisiana on Nov 2. I can't wait to tell truth nobody else dares!
Duke has expressed his excitement at the invitation to join the debate. But the 66-year-old former KKK leader has reportedly expressed his concern over safety. "Dillard is pretty supportive of Black Lives Matter, and I've been pretty critical of them," Duke told the Acadiana Advocateon Oct. 20.
Grubb said Duke may have been referring to a Sept. 20 event Dillard held with conservative writer Rick Lowry, who told a room full of black students that he disagreed with Black Lives Matter and there was no incident.
"Issues about safety are unfounded," the spokesman said.
Campbell, the Democratic Senate candidate, told ABC News it was "unfortunate" that WVUE-TV was allowing Duke to participate.
"His destructive rhetoric is a distraction from this campaign, which is about our future, not our past," Campbell said.
Duke, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations in 1988 and 1998, has also failed in runs for the Louisiana state Senate and governorship, U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Duke was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989 and served until 1992. He renounced his membership with the KKK in the 1970s, but has been known for espousing anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic viewpoints since then.
In March, he denied ever officially endorsing Trump's candidacy, but said he agrees with the real estate mogul's call for draconian immigration policy proposals that would allow the U.S. to remain Eurocentric in population and policy.
Founded in 1869, just a few years after the abolition of U.S. slavery, Dillard became a premiere Christian institution of higher learning in the 20th century and has the designation of being a historical black college or university, or an HBCU. Dillard enrolled 1,185 students in 2014, 90% of whom were black.
Should Duke get to debate on campus, Dillard students aren't going to start a riot, Chadrick Hudson, the past SGA president who graduated from the New Orleans university last spring, said in a phone interview.
"I know my student body," Hudson said Monday. "They're going to carry themselves with intelligence. But I think it's going to get tense."
Dillard sent an email to the student body and to alumni over the weekend to acknowledge the concern among students, Hudson said.
"If I was still SGA president, I would have pushed for the debate to be hosted off-campus," Hudson said in the phone interview. "We could have had shuttles for students to actually go to the debate."
Given that student leaders were not initially consulted before Dillard agreed to host the debate, Hudson questioned whether officials had students in mind at all.
"I really kind of feel as though they're not looking at it beyond the publicity," he said.
WVUE-TV's invitation to Duke is "disrespectful and distasteful," Caldwell, the current SGA vice president, said over the phone.
"I can care less what David Duke has to say," Caldwell said. "He's racist. He endorses Donald Trump. As a student body, we just have to rally together. This is our chance to make our mark."