Monday, June 25, 2012

Republican Racism Example #57: Scott Walker Says David Duke Raised "Legitimate Issues"

Just in case you thought Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s ruthless union busting, purge of voting rolls of likely Democrats, slashing of the social safety net, and willingness to serve as the lap dog of the environment- and job-destroying billionaire Koch Brothers wasn’t evil enough, there’s a tape of a televised debate he had with David Duke you should listen to, courtesy of the Daily Kos website.

As the website reports, back in 1992 former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (who was wrapping up his single term as a Republican in the Louisiana State Legislature) was fighting to get on the GOP presidential primary ballot   The Wisconsin Republican Party tapped Walker as their spokesmen for a debate with Duke on the Milwaukee Public TV program Smith and Company.

In a 1992 debate on Milwaukee Public Television, future Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said that David Duke raised "legitimate issues."  (Photo from  

During the chat, Walker went at great lengths to emphasize that while the Wisconsin GOP condemned Duke’s past role as Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from 1974 to 1980 (after which Duke founded the National Association for the Advancement of White People or NAAWP) it did not condemning the “issues” was bringing up.  “The distinction we're making is not one of saying his issues are extreme, they certainly are not,” Walker said. 

Duke had spent his career making clear that he believed that African Americans were intellectually inferior and crime prone, that he didn’t believe the Holocaust happened, and that Jews were undermining America through their control of the media.  The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League has compiled Duke’s public comments, such as in a1985 interview for a doctoral student’s dissertation when he said, “What we really want to do is to be left alone. We don't want Negroes around. We don't need Negroes around. We're not asking ­­ you know, we don't want to have them, you know, for our culture. We simply want our own country and our own society. That's in no way exploitive at all. We want our own society, our own nation...."  That same year, Duke wrote in an editorial called “The Black Plague” that appeared the NAAWP News, [A] black...gets a job with a white-owned company. He is the only black at the firm. He works hard, but he's fighting a losing battle against his genes."

Duke was even more blunt in his racial language in an April 23, 1975 interview with the Wichita, Kansas Sun.  White people don't need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals,” he said to the newspaper.  He also had nasty things to say about Jews. “"It's really the Jew Marxists who see the nigger as their instrument, as their bullets, by which to destroy our society."

Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke, who once said that "niggers are basically primitive animals."  Scott Walker couldn't come up with a good reason why he wasn't a legitimate candidate for president in a 1992 televised debate and failed to mention that Duke was a Holocaust denier. (Photo from  
Regarding the Holocaust, Duke had already said by 1985 in an Evelyn Rich interview that, “Did you ever notice how many survivors they have? Did you ever notice that? Everybody – every time you turn around, 15,000 survivors meet here, 400 survivors convention there. I mean, did you ever notice? Nazis sure were inefficient, weren't they? Boy, boy, boy! ...You almost have no survivors that ever say they saw a gas chamber or saw the workings of a gas chamber...they'll say these preposterous stories that anybody can check out to be a lie, an absolute lie."
Duke also had made clear in the same interview his belief that Jews had a genocidal intent towards white people.  “"They're trying to exterminate our race. I think, probably in a moral sense, the Jewish people have been a blight. I mean as a whole, not every Jew. And they probably deserve to go into the ashbin of history. But saying that and actually shooting or killing people in masses, are two different things. I'm not advocating extermination. I think the best thing is to resettle them in someplace where they can't exploit others. And I don't think they can live among themselves, I really don't."

David Duke as a Neo-Nazi while attending Louisiana State University and "protecting" the U.S. border against Mexican undocumented workers while  Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. (Photos from and 
All these comments were made before Scott Walker’s debate with Duke.  By the time Duke was trying to enter the Wisconsin GOP presidential primary, his career in the Klan was well-known and the campaign of President George H.W. Bush was battling mightily to avoid the embarrassment of having his name on the ballot.  Political professionals, the Bush apparatchiks would have done opposition research, which they would have shared with Walker.  Yet on Smith and Company, Walker insisted that the political issues Duke was raising were “legitimate.”  Walker briefly mentioned that Duke sold copies of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf in his state legislative office, but never talked about his anti-black, anti-Semitic views.  Referring to Duke’s ideology, Walker instead said:
“We feel you’re hiding behind some legitimate interests for middle class Americans, welfare reform as far as job protection, job security, issues that are important . . . The key is that you’re hiding behind issues that are legitimate issues but do not necessarily make you a legitimate candidate anymore than in the city of Milwaukee if Jeffrey Dahmer were to stand up . . .”

During his legislative race in Louisiana, his unsuccessful race for governor in 1991, and in his presidential race in 1992, Duke claimed he had converted to Christianity and had put his bigoted days as a Klansman and neo-Nazi behind him. However, like mainstream Republicans today, he ran on racially coded issues, more subtly campaigning on school busing and the supposedly poor state of integrated schools, the crime rate and affirmative action.

Scott Walker during his TV appearance with David Duke.  According to Walker, Duke brought up "some legitimate interests for middle class Americans, welfare reform as far as job protection, job security, issues that are important . . ." Walker didn't mention that Duke also argued that blacks are genetically inferior and worse swastika armbands as an LSU student..  (Photo from 

During the debate with Walker, Duke, brought up one hot button GOP issue of today after another, including even including the so-called 'war on Christmas and his opposition to the “open border with Mexico.” A viewer who called the show and described himself as a “life-long Republican” told the host he would be “proud” to have David Duke as a Republican candidate on the Wisconsin ballot. Another said, “I think David Duke is right on  I think the only reason they don’t want him to run is . . . he may damn well win.” David Duke mopped the floor with Walker during the show. Only two callers out of about a dozen said they opposed Duke’s views.  It’s clear that if Duke had never put on a white sheet, but held exactly the same beliefs, he might have been won the Louisiana governor’s race (where he got 39 percent of the total vote and 55 percent of the white vote) and perhaps might even have been a serious contender in the Wisconsin presidential primary.  As this blog has pointed out many times, the ideological and rhetorical distance between the Walkers and the Dukes in this country in the past two decades has shrunk to the vanishing point.  (To see the Duke-Walker debate, visit  See also and

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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