David Duke is a racist and anti-Semite who has been active in the white supremacist movement for over 40 years. A former Klansman, Duke has tried to soften his image over the years by presenting himself as a “respectable racist” and author.
Duke travels in the United States and abroad to spread his virulently anti-Semitic and racist worldview. He has spoken at various venues in the Middle East and Europe, particularly in Russia and the Ukraine, to promote his work. Authorities in some European countries, however, have expelled Duke for promoting racism, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial, a violation of those countries’ anti-hate laws.
Promoting anti-Semitism and white supremacy
Duke has made a career out of spreading unabashed anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Concerning Jews and the State of Israel, Duke’s messages typically include conspiratorial depictions of Jewish power and Jewish hatred for non-Jews, a combination he refers to as “Jewish supremacism.” Duke makes sweeping generalizations alleging Jewish control of the media, banking, world affairs and governments and Hollywood.
Duke finds creative ways to exploit current events to spread these beliefs. For example, when Duke is not attacking Jews directly, he is spreading conspiracy theories about the Mossad, the Israeli government and unnamed “Zionists” and their role in various world events including the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq war, immigration or any fluctuation in the U.S. economy. He also blames Jews for specific events such as the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, saying that it was “a result of Jewish control over several American institutions and foreign policy.”
Seeking to gain traction for his views, he has found an audience on the anti-Semitic Iranian English-language television station, Press TV. He appeared on the station a number of times in 2013 to attack Jews and Israel. Though Duke never shies away from demonizing Jews or promoting white European heritage, he has claimed that he is not an anti-Semite or a white supremacist.
In 2011, Duke tried to recast himself as a human rights advocate by releasing a statement he called “A New Paradigm for Human Diversity and Freedom.” The statement is, in fact, a recalculation of his white supremacist views. He writes that “every people and culture has the right to maintain and enrich its unique culture…” but actually argues that people of different races and cultures should live separately to ensure ethnic harmony. Duke also accuses “Zionist globalists” of controlling the banking, government and media for the purpose of destroying white European culture as well as other cultures. Duke’s “new paradigm for human diversity and freedom” is just a new take on prior statements he has made about defending the rights of whites.
Previously, Duke had argued that white people are denied “human rights” in the United States, as employers, schools, and other social institutions favor minorities, particularly African-Americans. In the early 2000s, Duke established the National Organization for European American Rights (NOFEAR), which he renamed the European American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) with the purpose of defending and preserving the rights of his “white heritage.” At the time, he said “European Americans face a situation where we’re going to be outnumbered and outvoted in our own country.” He then cited low birthrates, interracial marriages and immigration rates as key factors reducing the white population.
Activities in the U.S. and abroad
Duke reaches his audiences through his website, Internet radio show, books and newsletter, the David Duke Report. He uses all of these resources to talk about alleged Jewish power. He also promotes various anti-Jewish and anti-Israel conspiracy theories.
Although EURO no longer appears to be active, Duke continues to be a keynote speaker at annual conferences he co-sponsors with Don Black. Black founded Stormfront, a popular white supremacist Internet forum. Duke and Black held conferences in 2013, 2012 and 2011 near Knoxville, Tennessee, which brought together white supremacists and anti-Semites from around the country to discuss practical ways to mobilize other whites and to promote white European heritage.
The mid-2000s probably signaled the peak of Duke’s popularity within the current white supremacist movement. In May 2004, EURO sponsored a conference in Kenner, Louisiana, near New Orleans, which attracted 250 attendees. In his remarks, Duke urged the audience not to characterize themselves as white supremacists and racists but as devoted to the “white civil rights cause.” A year later, in May 2005, he convened the “2005 European American Conference” in New Orleans. Attended by over 300 white supremacists, the theme of the conference was the unification of Europeans and Americans in opposition to Jews, who were demonized as blood suckers and parasites who dominate media and government around the world.
Duke has also spent a lot of time abroad trying to disseminate his ideas to audiences in Europe. He has, however, had difficulty speaking publicly in certain parts of Europe since 2009 when Swiss authorities banned Duke from entering any of the 26-member countries covered by the Schengen Treaty.
In November 2013, an Italian court upheld Duke’s expulsion from the country and accused him of trying to establish a neo-Nazi group there. According to media reports, Italy had expelled Duke after officials discovered that he had spent a year and a half there under a study visa. Duke had appealed the expulsion but the Italian court affirmed it, a decision consistent with the 2009 ban issued by Switzerland.
Other countries have arrested Duke. In November 2012, authorities in Cologne, Germany arrested Duke as he was about to give a speech to a right-wing extremist group. In April 2009, authorities in Prague arrested Duke, who was visiting the Czech Republic to deliver speeches promoting his racist and anti-Jewish ideology. The arrest came as a result of suspicions that Duke was denying the Holocaust, a punishable offense there.
Before the 2009 ban on Duke, he spoke in other countries in Europe, including Belgium, Spain and Hungary. Duke has also spent a lot of time in Russia and the Ukraine. In October 2006, Duke addressed an audience at the MAUP, or the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, a major private university system in Ukraine. He spoke on the topic of “Zionist influence in the United States.” MAUP awarded Duke a doctorate in history in September 2005 and he has taught at the university. Duke still uses his title of “doctor” to present himself as a scholar.
Duke has also visited the Middle East to spread anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Of particular note was Duke’s December 2006 trip to Tehran to address a Holocaust denial conference convened by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The conference brought together a diverse group of anti-Semites, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, radical anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Though the organizers insisted that their aim was only to “scientifically investigate” the history of World War II, the guests and speeches were universally devoted to either denying that Jews were the victims of genocide under the Nazis or to de-legitimizing the State of Israel.
Even though Duke spends much time attracting a following abroad, his judicious use of the Internet makes it appear that he is never far from his home audience. Technology allows Duke to post material and update the Web site he runs from anywhere in the world.
Duke uses his website sells his books and solicits funds for ongoing writing projects. In July 2013, Duke tried to raise money for a new book titled The Secret Behind Communism. In the introduction, he claims that Jews were behind the Russian Revolution and were responsible for murdering tens of millions of people. He writes, “Upon achieving total power, [Jews’] deep psychopathic, racist hatred became manifest in the greatest human slaughter of all time.” The introduction is typical of his anti-Semitic diatribes. Duke argues that the alleged mass killing of Ukrainians by Jews far exceeded the Holocaust. Invoking classical anti-Semitic myths, he claims that the public focuses on the Holocaust and not the Ukraine because Jews control the media, academia, governments and Hollywood.
In 2013, Duke also attempted to raise funds for another anti-Semitic book he is writing, The Zionist Conspiracy. Duke released a preview of one chapter of the book, in which he argues that Jews do not have a higher intelligence level than non-Jews, and thus their “overrepresentation” in Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, can be attributed to anti-white discrimination against “more qualified” European-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Duke also sells his earlier anti-Semitic works on his website, including his 2002 book, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Questions, in which he talks about alleged Jewish power and Jewish hatred for non-Jews and his 1998 self-published 700-page autobiography, My Awakening. In the latter book, Duke attempted to prove that blacks are genetically inferior to whites, while devoting almost 250 pages to anti-Jewish themes.
Duke, born in 1950, first came to public attention in the 1970s. In 1974, he founded the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and became the group’s Imperial Wizard. Duke’s efforts to market himself as a new brand of Klansman – well-groomed, engaged, professional –were successful, and Duke boosted Klan membership.
Duke left the Klan in 1980 and founded the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP). He described the group as “primarily a white rights lobby organization, a racialist movement, mainly middle class people” and likened its message to that of the Ku Klux Klan.
In addition to his white supremacist activities, Duke ran for political offices several times. In 1975, Duke emerged on the political scene with an unsuccessful bid for the Louisiana State Senate. In 1988, Duke ran for the Presidency, first as a Democrat, and then as a third-party candidate on the Populist Party ticket, founded four years earlier by anti-Semite Willis Carto, to provide far-right radicals with a platform for political office. Duke saw his only political victory in January 1989, when he was elected to a seat in the Louisiana State Legislature in Metairie. Duke still draws on this position to call himself a Representative, attempting to gain a more legitimate public face.
In 1990, Duke ran against Democratic incumbent J. Bennett Johnston for a United States Senate seat, which he lost. In March 1991, Duke launched a campaign for the governorship of Louisiana, which he also lost. In September 1996, Duke competed in Louisiana’s United States Senate “open” primary, placing fourth among 15 candidates. In December 1998, Duke ran for a Congressional seat in Louisiana’s First Congressional District. He placed third in the election.
Duke served time in a federal prison in Texas from April 2003 through May 2004 following his 2002 conviction for mail fraud and tax evasion activities dating from the 1990s. He had avoided prosecution earlier by spending much of 2001-2002 in Russia and the Ukraine promoting anti-Semitism while safely out of the reach of the U.S. government. Returning to the U.S. late in 2002, Duke entered into a plea-bargained thirteen-month prison sentence.