S1: This podcast contains language that some listeners might find offensive. White supremacists love talking Tevlin Rich. Maybe it was her talent for flattery.
S2: All right. He put a face around the other way. You sound like a kind of an interesting maybe, but it can be bakradze.
S1: How you got how Rich was born in England and she was getting her P.H. D at Boston University. Her dissertation was on the modern Ku Klux Klan, what they believed and why they believed it. On February 17th, 1986, she put her tape recorder in front of a neo-Nazi named Joe Fields.
S2: How did you get into that? From the time I was probably four or five, I was attracted to National Socialism. I used to watch Hollywood movies and I looked for the Germans.
S3: You know, Rich and Fields got together in Southern California at a conference hosted by the Institute for Historical Review. The I H.R. called itself a think tank. But it was really a hate group. Its main goal was to sow doubt about the Holocaust, to spread the lie that Germany hadn’t really killed six million Jews. The doctoral student in the neo-Nazi wouldn’t be alone for long, a few minutes into their conversation. They got interrupted by a knock on the door.
S2: She’s probably the only one in my family I can really talk to.
S1: So, yeah. It was David Duke, America’s best known white supremacist. Or your interview.
S2: What we were doing. Get in that way.
S1: Duke had grown up in New Orleans in the 50s and 60s. His father wasn’t around much. And his mother was an alcoholic. As a teenager, he found a community at the New Orleans White Citizens Council, a group that fought to stop the integration of public schools. Duke got famous in the 70s when he was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. Reporters and TV producers thought he was a fascinating subject. He was well-dressed and clean cut. He seemed like a perfectly nice young man until he opened his mouth.
S4: American white people are searching and are reaching out for a movement and a complex plan.
S5: That man.
S3: By the time he met Evelin Rich, Duke was in his thirties and he’d broken with the clan. Duke couldn’t resist butting into Rich’s conversation with the neo-Nazi when Duke spoke up. He made it clear that his world view hadn’t changed since he left the KKK.
S6: I think people, Joe, I deserve if they try episodically, I think that my next Maharis, I think probably a more all set Jewish people have been black. I mean, it’s a whole lot richer and they probably deserve to gargash history.
S3: The Jewish people have been a blight. They probably deserve to go into the ash bin of history behind closed doors at this California meetup for Holocaust deniers. Duke felt comfortable sharing his true beliefs, and that wasn’t all he revealed a few minutes later. Duke talked about his master plan, his strategy for breaking into the mainstream by keeping quiet about his extremist views.
S7: I’m trying to bring people that I can probably add, but it’s the difference making if they can call you a Nazi and make it stick. I mean, Tom Grover. Really hard.
S8: It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the ability to open their minds to what you’re saying.
S9: Winfield’s brought up Nazi Germany. Duke said the time was right for a new year.
S7: It doesn’t take that many people to start something real. And, you know, Hitler started OK. Seven men. Right. That’s what I’m trying to know. A lot of it. Most people have one thing to do. A thought. You think it can happen right now with the right package together? Don’t you think that there are millions of Americans who are alienated looking for something? And the truth is the truth. US what we believe in. And Gary, do tell. So I need somebody. My guy is not me. Oh, you know, but I might have to do it because nobody else. My. Come on, do it.
S10: The recording you just heard would help bring down David Duke, but that would happen later in the late 80s and early 90s. Duke was sure his time had come, that he was the leader white people wanted to believe in. He was canny and charismatic and in his home state of Louisiana, he was becoming a political star. As a kid growing up in New Orleans, there was a lot about Duke and his movement that I couldn’t comprehend, but I saw and heard enough back then to understand that something enormous was at stake.
S11: There’s something very scary about the election of David Duke. David Duke is drawing full houses.
S12: Much of the debate, at least at first, will be about David Duke.
S11: Some hate him. To others, he’s a hero.
S10: This is slow burn season four. I’m your host, Josh Levine. Over the next six episodes, you’ll hear about the moment when a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. What were the forces that fueled David Duke’s rise? What did it take to defeat him? And did he ever really go away? This is Episode one.
S1: David Duke had big plans and an enormous ego. His first priority in the years after he buried his soul to Rich was to win the highest office in the land.
S13: If I have your commitment and you have my commitment that tomorrow that I will announce my formal entry into the race for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
S14: Duke’s 1988 presidential run was a flop. As a Democrat, he couldn’t muster enough support to get on the debate stage. Duke then ran under the banner of the Populist Party, a fringe group dominated by Klansmen, Holocaust deniers and avowed Nazis. In that 1988 race, George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis by eight points. Duke would earn just point zero five percent of the vote. Duke was undeterred by this electoral rout. He believed he had a great message and that he was a great messenger. He would just need to take a different path to power. A month after the presidential race, the 38 year old Duke found an opportunity that was within his grasp. He was going to run for the Louisiana state House of Representatives.
S15: This podcast is going to focus on a few pivotal years in Duke’s career.
S16: The period when he made his most successful run at real political power. Starting here with a campaign in the New Orleans suburbs, because this was the race that changed David Duke’s life.
S14: For this election in Louisiana’s House district, eighty one, Duke wasn’t really a factor in state or national politics, but by the time the campaign was over, Duke was a sensation. He was threatening to take control of the entire state.
S16: It all happened incredibly quickly.
S14: US District 81 was in the suburb of Metairie in Jefferson Parish.
S16: Parishes, by the way, are what most states call counties. New Orleans is in Orleans Parish. Yes, they’re pronounced differently for reasons it would take a whole other podcast to explain. The District 81 one race was a special election seat, came open when the guy who’d held it became a judge.
S14: It would be a lightning fast campaign.
S16: Primary was in less than two months. Duke’s opponents included a school board member, a florist, a bingo hall owner, and John Treen, who is best known as the brother of a former Louisiana governor. Any of those men could have ended David Duke’s campaign before it started. Duke had been living just outside the district. If someone had challenged his residency, he would have been disqualified. And it’s possible no one would remember Duke today. But none of them raised a challenge. They didn’t think Duke was a serious contender. Maybe they didn’t understand. District eighty one year. James Gill, who wrote about Duke for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
S17: Very, very conservative is a polite word. If ever a Klansman or a Nazi wants to get into mainstream politics, you couldn’t choose a better district than this one in Metairie, Tailormade District.
S3: Eighty one included the neighborhood of old Metairie with its tree lined streets and big mansions. It also included the working class area of Bucktown, an old fishing village dotted with clabbered homes. District 81 had rich people and hard up people and people in between. But almost all of them. Ninety nine point six percent of them were white. Most voters in the district were on the rolls as Democrats, but they’d started to cast ballots for Republicans in huge numbers in his 1984 re-election campaign. Ronald Reagan got 84 percent of the vote in District 81. David Duke knew his audience in this special election. He wouldn’t be a Democrat or a populist. This time he’d run as a Republican. On the trail, Duke touted himself as honest and outspoken at times as national news outlets pointed out that outspokenness was more like straight up racism.
S18: One big plank in Duke’s platform, reforming the welfare system by curbing the illegitimate black birthrate.
S14: But Duke didn’t mention the Holocaust, and when he got on the subject of race, he spoke more stridently than Ronald Reagan did. But mostly took the same positions.
S11: In fact, I’m trying to prevent discrimination with this idea, as I say, of eliminating quotas, work for areas that are welfare.
S12: And we want an absolute and these antiwhite programs of racial discrimination called affirmative action and minority set asides.
S14: Duke presented white nationalism as an ideology of fairness. He argued that black Americans were getting special privileges on the job market and in government contract, that it was time for someone to stand up for white people’s interest. Here’s Quin Hillyer, a Republican who supported Duke’s opponent, John Treen.
S19: And he did talk about race, it was never about doing anything to blacks, it was always about protecting the whites psychologically. For a lot of voters, these distinctions, subtle distinctions are important.
S20: Duke didn’t only talk about race, one of his biggest issues was property taxes. He vowed to keep them low to protect what he called hard working, productive middle class people. This was the plan Duke had laid out to Evelin Rich and the neo-Nazi Joe Fields. He was trying to bring new people in to win over voters who didn’t identify as white supremacists.
S3: To understand the district where David Duke was running, you need to know about the most powerful man in Jefferson Parish. He was a Chinese American sheriff and a cowboy hat, and his name was Harry Lee. Here he is in a 2006 interview with NPR.
S21: A year before he died, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish is the closest thing there is to being a king in the United States. I have no unions. I don’t have civil service. Hire and fire will. I don’t have to go to council and propose a budget. I approve the budget. I’m the head the law enforcement district and did lawful act only as one vote, which is me.
S3: Lee was a fun loving autocrat at Mardi Gras. He threw Harry Lee dolls from a flood that featured an enormous likeness of his own face. The sheriff spent eighty thousand dollars on that flute, which he saw as money well spent. Every year, he said, My big fat head’s coming down Veterans Highway and a half million, a million people see it. Harry Lee was born in New Orleans in 1932. In the back room of his family’s laundromat, a bunch of Lee’s constituents in Jefferson Parish had relocated from New Orleans to one of them was David Duke, who moved to Jefferson in the 1970s. White New Orleans went to the suburbs in search of bigger houses and lower tax bills. They also wanted to get away from black people. Here’s former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. His father was the city’s first black mayor.
S22: What they were doing was getting away from integration, fleeing what they thought the city, New Orleans was was becoming, which was a city which was more racially diverse and where African-American numbers were increasing and African-American influence was increasing as the population of Jefferson Parish swelled.
S1: Harry Lee presented himself as the guardian of the suburbs. He’d make sure that Mary felt like a safe haven for white people. The sheriff faced a big test in 1986 when the parish was hit by a string of armed robberies that December. He proposed a solution to the crime wave, racial profiling.
S23: It will be stopping more black people in predominately white neighborhoods and in. I don’t know how to say it either. We’re gonna do it. If you live in a predominately white neighborhood, in it is two black males in the car right behind you. There’s a pretty good chance that they’re up to no good.
S3: The executive director of the Louisiana ACLU called Lee a despicable bigot. Protesters descended on Jefferson Parish demanding his resignation and chanting Harry Lee and the Klan go hand in hand. Lee walked back his plan, but he didn’t resign. James Gill covered Lee for decades.
S24: He would always say exactly what he thought and what he thought was seldom politically correct, but often chimed with his constituents. Harry had that knack of getting away with stuff that other people couldn’t.
S17: And people just loved him for it.
S14: Harry Lee’s supporters thought he was being straight with them about the dangers of New Orleans and of New Orleans, specifically black New Orleans, poverty, blight and gun violence were real problems in the city in the 1980s. Here’s Marc Morial again.
S22: Louisiana was experiencing a deep, deep recession related to the downward price of oil, which caused tremendous upheaval. It caused New Orleans to lose population. It gave us a problem of abandoned housing. It fueled the crime and the crack epidemic in the city.
S14: In New Orleans, the economic catastrophe of the oil bust converged with the nationwide trends of white flight and urban neglect. The white suburbanites of Jefferson Parish, meanwhile, went to great lengths to keep their enclaves sealed off. One incident in 1987 drew national attention.
S18: Finally this evening, we have a report about crime and race relations, and it may come down to which side of the fence you live on just outside New Orleans. To be specific, it’s not a fence and it’s not a wall. It’s a barrier.
S25: The Jefferson Parish Council ordered the construction of two steel barricades. Those barriers closed off a pair of public streets blocking traffic from a black neighborhood in New Orleans Parish.
S11: Official said the barricades were to keep criminals from slipping in and out of their neighborhoods.
S12: But as pure racism, this side of Jefferson is predominantly white, whereas this side of all these fires is predominantly black.
S25: A New Orleans government crew bulldozed the barricades and Jefferson decided not to rebuild them, but the message had been sent.
S14: Racism was a powerful force in District 81. The popularity of Harry Lee and the barricades constructed on the border with Orleans Parish bore that out. So did the rising street level support for David Duke. Early polls had Duke in third place with just seven percent support. But James Gill was sure those numbers were bogus. He watched Duke stroll into a bar in Metairie and get received as a hero. He also saw Duke Yard signs everywhere. And Gill thought all those signs actually understated Duke’s popularity.
S17: People would be embarrassed to confess they they were voting for you. But in the privacy of the voting booth, they would do it. You.
S26: And on January 16th, nineteen eighty nine. Five days before the primary, an incident in New Orleans made Duke’s race based campaign resonate more loudly in Jefferson Parish.
S27: At approximately 4:00 this afternoon, Martin Luther King Day on Canal Street turned ugly. Calls could be heard on police radios trying to keep the crowd from building too thick. When they did, there were fights between blacks and whites on their gangs.
S26: And the police said the violence in downtown New Orleans stemmed from what they called turf wars between black youths. But some bystanders got caught in the middle. Guy, guy, about 60 getting beat up. He came down here saying no whites on blacks. Canal Street had been New Orleans is main shopping district. But by the late 1980s, it was blighted. Anyone who could afford to went shopping at huge malls a few miles away in Metairie. The violence on Canal Street was part of a larger story about disinvestment in American cities. But most people in District 81 weren’t thinking about sociology. They wanted to keep New Orleans and everything that represented is far from their front doors as possible. The more scared they were, the better it was for David Duke. One of Duke’s opponents watching footage of the violence told his wife. I think we’re going to have some trouble with this.
S14: As voters in District 81 went to cast their ballots. David Duke was still considered an underdog. The front runner was 62 year old Republican John Treen. Beth Ricky worked for the Treme campaign. Here she has a 1991.
S28: I came up the stairs that night, election night. I’m coming up the stairs and I was just waiting to hear that it was John and this other fellow, Delton Charles in a runoff. And someone grabbed me and said, Duke came in first.
S29: Governor Buddy Roemer said electing former Klansman David Duke to the state legislature would not help Louisiana’s national image. Duke led train with 33 percent of the vote.
S3: David Duke was inching closer to the American mainstream, but he wasn’t a winner quite yet. This was just the first round of voting since neither Duke or a tree in had a majority. There would be a runoff a month later. In private, Harry Lee described the face off between David Duke and John Treen as a choice between a bigot and an asshole. Republicans in Louisiana love trains brother Dave, the former governor. But John, who made his money as a homebuilder, was seen as entitled and arrogant. He was the type of guy. One anonymous Republican said, who can tell you. Good morning and piss you off. Treen had thought he could coast to victory on name recognition alone when the race became a personality contest. He was severely outgunned.
S17: John Train was not an impressive candidate. He’s perfectly decent guy, as far as I know, but had nothing really to commend him.
S24: He was no charisma, no no color, no style, no dash.
S1: David Duke had the dash that John Treen lacked. Duke’s fans revelled in his youth and his energy. Earlier in the 80s, he’d remade his face with plastic surgery, a nose job, chin implant and chemical peels. One seventy two year old woman said that seeing Duke at her door was one of the most thrilling moments of her life. Train voters tended to be the very richest in District 81, the type that belonged to Metairie Country Club. Duke’s support was wider ranging. Middle class people, working class laborers, retirees and the people that liked him. They really liked him.
S30: Some voters are concerned about Duke’s Klamm connection, but a lot are not. You got my full support.
S31: I mean, I see nothing wrong with being white for a white does not necessarily mean Antine Black. It doesn’t bother you that he’s a former Klansman and now I think the skeletons in all of them.
S1: Here’s Beth Rickey again.
S28: When I was on radio show on time, I got in a sort of a debate with this man who was saying, are you calling me a racist for supporting David Duke? And I said, why did why are you voting for David Duke as opposed to, say, John training? Said, Well, David Duke’s got credentials. And I thought, that’s so true. You know, he is. They know he means business about welfare reform. Use clan leader.
S14: Treeing himself was no great champion of civil rights. He’d once been a member of the segregationist States Rights Party, but he said his views on race had evolved. And he drew a bright line between his values and David Duke’s.
S32: I think he’s running a very thinly veiled racist and anti-Semitic campaign. This is his history that goes back and publications that he has put out.
S14: One of treasons campaign mailers showed treene in his Navy whites at age 19 serving his country during World War Two. Alongside, it was a photo of 19 year old David Duke dressed as a Nazi brownshirt. That image wasn’t doctored. He really had worn a swastika. Duke knew this was bad for him. It was just like he had said to Evelin Rich three years earlier. If they can call you a Nazi and make it stick, it’s going to hurt. Duke needed to make sure it didn’t stick. Instead of apologizing, he played the victim. He called that player character assassination and made a show of tearing it up on local television. The Raisin District 81 came down to trust who was an honest broker and who is telling voters what they wanted to hear. For Duke and train, this was a fundamental distinction.
S33: You don’t even know the definition of it. I’m still standing up. I’m standing up for the white race. I don’t deny that. Do we have that official for focusing on, you know, definition of a black? But you agree with practically everything I say. But you don’t have the guts and the courage to come out openly and say what I believe. You don’t have the guts and courage to tell the truth. And it.
S9: As the runoff drew closer, the national media descended on District 81.
S30: Polls have predicted a close race between ex Klansman David Duke and John Train, both running as Republicans. Afternoon.
S34: Election officials said it appeared between 75 and 80 percent of the voters in the district would go to the polls. This is the front runner. David Duke is 38 years old. Smooth, articulate, a sharp dresser and a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
S9: Republican leaders were horrified by Duke and by the prospect that he’d stay in the party’s reputation. They saw the race in Jefferson Parish as an emergency.
S35: John has always worked for the traditional values and principles which you and I cherish.
S30: Ronald Reagan recorded a radio commercial for train. And President Bush sent a letter to voters in the district calling train the clear choice.
S9: It wasn’t just national Republicans who lined up behind Duke’s opponent. The Louisiana Republican Party backed John Treene to Duke described these endorsements as outside interference.
S34: This isn’t a story heavy handed. It’s it’s unethical. I’m just as much a legitimate Republican as John Trainor or Reagan or Bush or any other people.
S36: David Duke positioned himself as the ultimate outsider, someone who understood what it felt like to be put upon and forgotten.
S9: The race in District 81, he said, was me against the world, but not every public official took a stand against David Duke. Sheriff Harry Lee had a special connection with his white constituents, a connection he had built despite not being white himself. They saw Lee as someone who is genuine and who spoke the truth even when it got him into trouble. So it’s possible that Lee could have tilted the election if he told Jefferson Parish voters that Duke was beyond the pale instead. Lee sat the race out. He didn’t campaign for the bigot or the asshole. Here’s James Gill.
S24: Harry must have felt the heat in his tread very carefully because he didn’t want to alienate people who might vote for him. And people voted for. You could also vote for Harry.
S1: On Election Day, Quin Hillyer posted up at the busiest intersection in District Eighty one, the corner of Bonnabel and Veterans.
S19: There were maybe ten or twelve of us for train that were at that intersection with our green train signs and 25 or 30 Duke people there with their blue and white dog signs.
S37: And for a large part of that time, David Duke himself was there.
S1: Hillier, who is not quite 25 at the time, was active in the Louisiana young Republicans. So we’re most of the other tree and supporters at the intersection. The Duke partisans that Hillyer saw were more eclectic.
S37: They were skinheads that were making circles, circles, circles, yelling in favor of Duke. There were even some frat boys that were hanging out and yelling in favor of Duke. There were, you know, teenage girls who thought he was dreamy or something. And there were TV cameras all over the place.
S1: Duke was standing in the middle of all this, delivering a gentle, soothing message.
S38: People would recognize him and as they drove up and that stop at the light, they’d roll down the window and in this nice, pleasant voice.
S19: Hi, I’m David Duke. I’m running to represent everybody in the district. I love everybody. And I really want to do this right. I would really appreciate your vote.
S1: A short while later, the other and supporters went to lunch, Helier was at the intersection by himself.
S38: There was a lull in traffic and Duke saw me.
S37: And when there was nobody else around immediately to see, he all of a sudden made a beeline toward me and started yelling at me and snarling and his face got all red. And he said, Get off of my corner. This is my street corner. The three other corners you can go to get the hell out of here. And then traffic it picked up. So he went back to the corner and people were stopped and all of a sudden he went from this snarling red face beast, too.
S38: Hi, I’m David Duke, and I want to represent everybody.
S3: David Duke was desperate for every vote. John Treene just wanted the race to be over. When Helier went back to campaign headquarters on the afternoon of Election Day, he found the candidate alone.
S38: John Train was sitting back there looking catatonic, glassy eyes staring straight ahead. I tried to talk to him and had to answer in these single syllable monotones and I felt really sorry for the poor guy. He he had no expectation getting into this race what he was in for. And he didn’t know what had hit him.
S14: Treen was one of the first people I spoke to when I started working on this podcast.
S39: How are you feeling? How how’s it going? Yeah. So I am happy. Ninety fourth birthday, belatedly. Well, thank you very much. It’s good to be 94 zero zero known alternative. You know, a good thing about getting. No. It’s always easier going downhill. Do you use it? I did. OK. All right. What can I do for you now?
S3: My main takeaway from interviewing train was that he still hated David Duke. Really, really hated him. Treen told me the Duke could spread a horrible lie about him. During that 1989 race, Quin Hillyer got wind of it on Election Day.
S19: In addition to all the other things I heard, I distinctly remember one person going by and rolling down the window and said, No way, I’m voting for your guy. He’s a child molester.
S1: John Treene wasn’t a child molester. His brother Paul was facing charges of child sexual abuse. Paul Treene would later plead no contest and be sentenced to probation. But a lot of voters thought John was the one who’d done something wrong. Thanks to whispers from the Duke campaign, that smear followed Treene long after the race was over.
S32: I had people that for years later ignored me or had things to say, ugly things to say to me, because, you know, that word got out. It was a problem.
S39: If you could say something to Duke now, then why would you say I wouldn’t speak to them?
S32: That would have nothing to say to. What can I say? I mean, what would go to do to say anything to nothing?
S1: Two months after we talked, John Treene died of Koven 19. His obituary began with the race in District 81.
S40: I went to the Duke headquarters the night of the election. It was a Lions Club on Metairie Road and the mood of the crowd was hostile, unruly.
S1: That’s Jason Berry, a writer based out of New Orleans.
S40: I got in a conversation with several people who were telling me that the Holocaust was a myth, that it never happened. That six million Jews did not die. This was all a form of propaganda.
S1: I had never been exposed to Holocaust denial before that other journalists who are standing in a roped off media section became the targets of racist abuse from Duke supporters. A black cameraman said, we need to get out of here before they lynch us.
S41: I remember I turned around and I saw a guy I had known. Oh, in the eighth grade whose sister had been a deficit taught in New Orleans. And when I saw that guy, I realized, you know, this is not just a bunch of hard edged guys with, you know, shotguns in the back of their truck. There’s there’s something deeper going on here. A lot of people, a middle class and of means closed ranks to vote for him.
S15: After a campaign peppered with charges of racism without a visa return, showing 35 of 35 precincts reporting duties, eight thousand four hundred and fifty six votes train at eight thousand two hundred and thirty two.
S29: We had no big political endorsements. Even the president, United States came out against way.
S42: David Duke won officially by two hundred and twenty seven votes for the former Klansman and the people who loved him. That narrow victory felt like a landslide. That’s the crowd at Duke’s election night party. Recorded by Pleader Robinson. Robinson was an independent radio journalist. He spent that evening circulating through the room, asking Duke’s biggest fans to explain what had just happened.
S43: We don’t like people who are from another area, who don’t know the issues and don’t know the people who are involved in it right here, interfering in politics and telling us how to vote.
S25: The most common answer Robinson heard was the Duke was going to lower taxes.
S44: We want change. We want something to be done where we have to pay less tax and get more representation in the state. That’s what we voted for David Duke to get better representation. That’s the bottom line.
S25: There was one thing these people said that didn’t influence their votes.
S44: It wasn’t any racial issue. It’s economic all the way. And end is the role of racism. Is that prominent? Well, if the news media could describe to anyone a good definition of racism, I certainly would like to have it.
S3: It was obvious to anyone who was paying even a scintilla of attention that a vote for Duke was a vote for the most extreme kind of prejudice. But by spending at least some of the campaign talking about taxes, Duke gave people in District 81 a cover story. He allowed them to claim that they simply liked his stands on the issues and the way he spoke his mind. Duke’s plan. The one he’d explain. Tevlin Rich had worked perfectly when he wrapped his bigotry and conventional Republican politics. He gave his fans an excuse to vote for bigotry. Duke made himself a cause, and he made his supporters feel like members of a political family. As Duke made clear on election night, an attack on him was an attack on the whole Duke tribe.
S45: There hasn’t been a campaign in modern American history where the candidate was more attacked and more slandered and more lied about and put down. And then you’re a David Duke in this election. You know that.
S9: And I know that this was a campaign of grievance and outrage and winning one election wasn’t going to change that at that time.
S46: In that room, I was really struck by how angry people were. Even though the guy had won.
S1: Thirty one years later, John Treene had no trouble recalling how he felt that night.
S47: I remember. And actually, I broke down and cried. And one of the reasons was that they weren’t just because our losses, because I thought he would hurt Louisiana. And I think he did.
S3: My great grandfather, Lewis Wright, came to the United States out of fear. He wanted to escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. To find a place where you’d feel secure. Lewis ended up in the town of Eunice, Louisiana, where he opened a dry goods store in 1911. There were about seventeen hundred people in Eunice then. Only a handful of them were Jewish. But Lewis and his family were embraced there. Louisiana felt like home. Lewis’s daughter, Lillian. My grandmother moved from Younus to New Orleans to go to school. That’s where my dad grew up and where I was born and raised. I was eight years old when Duke won that election and Jefferson Parish.
S9: I remember seeing Duke signs all over the place, including on the roof of a restaurant that served really good gumbo. I also saw Duke himself working the crowd, an LSU football game. I’d always thought that Tiger Stadium was my favorite place in the world. But after that day, I wasn’t sure a Jewish kid like me belong there or anywhere in Louisiana since I started out as a journalist. I have one of the chance to look back at the Duke years and to understand why so many people were drawn to him. That feels more urgent now as the movement. Duke Gold looks less like a historical oddity than a warning sign. The morning after the election in District Eighty one, Duke said that everybody needed to calm down, that all the fears about what he might do to blacks and Jews were totally overblown.
S48: I don’t if you remember the old children’s story about Chicken Little, Chicken Little ran around and said the sky is falling, the sky is falling. And it turned out it was only a small acorn on Chicken Littles. I have been elected. I’m the new representative from this district. And ladies and gentlemen, the sky hasn’t fallen.
S49: The next day, the New Orleans Times-Picayune published an editorial, it was headlined The Duke Embarrassment. Mr. Duke’s message was clearly a racial one and remained so throughout the campaign. The paper said. This message is repugnant and we categorically reject it. At the same time, we believe every human being should be given the chance to grow, to change, to see the errors of his ways.
S10: Next time on Slow Burn in 1989, David Duke made himself out to be a new man, but his years in the Klan were the key to understanding who he was and who he wanted to become. What did David Duke do for the Ku Klux Klan and what did the Klan do for him? On Episode two of our series.
S49: Slow Burn is a production of Slate plus Slate’s membership program this season. Slate plus members get exclusive first access to episodes two and three of our series. Yes, if you are a member, you don’t have to wait another week or two. These episodes are in your feed right now. Here’s a preview.
S50: And the crowd started chanting things like boneheads, boneheads, boneheads. And, you know, he didn’t have to do very much to rev up these people. Their anger was there. They agreed with him. They you know, they wanted him do more. They would say, where are our sheets?
S49: You can listen now by signing up at Slate dot com slash slow burn starting next week. Plus, members will also get weekly bonus episodes where we’ll dive deeper into the history we’re exploring this season. We couldn’t make slow burn without the support of Slate plus. So please sign up if you can head over to Slate dot com slash Slover. Slow burn is produced by me and Christopher Johnson with editorial direction by Low in Lou and Gabriel Roth. Madeline Ducharme is our production assistant. So if Summer Grad is Slow Burns assistant producer, our mix engineer is Paul Manzie. David Gross composed our theme song. The artwork for Slow Burn is by Lisa Larson Walker. Special thanks to Jordan Hirsch, Jessica Seidman and Slate’s Chow to Katie Raiford, Laura Bennett, Allison Benedikt and Jared Holt. Thanks for listening.