Slow Burn: David Duke

Season 4

Cold Call

What I learned from a child journalist’s interview with David Duke—and why I’m not interviewing him myself.


Episode Notes

In 1989, a Black 12-year-old girl in New Orleans found the David Duke phenomenon, and Duke himself, hard to comprehend. So she called Duke on the phone to ask him some questions.

In this Slow Burn interlude: how a budding journalist outdid the professionals. Plus, why we won’t be interviewing David Duke for our series.

Season 4 of Slow Burn is produced by Josh Levin and Christopher Johnson. Mixing by Paul Mounsey. Slow Burn’s production assistant is Madeline Ducharme and Sophie Summergrad is the podcast’s assistant producer.

Sources for This Episode


Powell, Lawrence N. Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana, University of North Carolina Press, 2019 (originally published in 2000).

Saslow, Eli. Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, Anchor Publishing, 2018.


Collins, K. Austin, “How Topher Grace Nailed BlacKkKlansman’s Toughest Role: the Smiling Face of White Supremacy,” Vanity Fair, Aug. 9, 2018.

Manchester, Julia. “David Duke: Charlottesville protests about ‘fulfilling promises of Donald Trump,’ ” The Hill, Aug. 12, 2017.

Maraniss, David. “Winning Support With a White-Power Image,” Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1989.


Burnett, Jo-Anna K. “David Duke Interview,” March 12, 1989.

Film and TV: 

Lee, Spike. BlacKkKlansman, 2018.


About the Show

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. David Duke’s rise to power and prominence—his election to the Louisiana Legislature, and then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship—was an existential crisis for the state and the nation. The fourth season of Slate’s Slow Burn will explore how a Nazi sympathizer and former Klansman fashioned himself into a mainstream figure, and why some voters came to embrace his message. It will also examine how activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens confronted Duke’s candidacy, and what it took to stop him.

The season is hosted by Josh Levin, a longtime Slow Burn editor and native Louisianian.

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