David Duke, Interviewee

Jo-Anna K. Burnett, Interviewer

JKB: Hi, my name is Jo-Anna Burnett. I’ve dialed David Duke’s phone number several times today, and all I’ve gotten was [phone rings], a telephone ring. But at the same address that he lives at, there’s a name called Ernest, but a different number, but at the same address that he (David Duke) lives at. Want to dial it? Let’s see what happens. [Dialing Duke, rings.]

DD: Hello.

JKB: Hi, may I speak with Ernest?

DD: Yeah.

JKB: Is David Duke over there?

DD: Yes.

JKB: He is?

DD: This is David Duke.

JKB: This is David Duke?

DD: Who is this?

JKB: Huh?

DD: This is David Duke.

JKB: This is David Duke.

DD: Yes.

JKB: How do you think you got elected?

DD: Huh?

JKB: How do you think you got elected?

DD: I got elected because people believed and agreed with what I talked about.

JKB: OK, you say you’re not a bigot anymore?

DD: I never was a bigot ma’am.

JKB: But you call yourself a racialist?

DD: No, I don’t. I call myself a white civil rights activist because I believe in equal rights for everybody. That’s what I call myself.

JKB: Did you live in the downtown area at one point in time?

DD: No.

JKB: You didn’t?

DD: No.

JKB: But you attended Ganus Clifton High.

DD: I attended Ganus. Clifton L. Ganus Jr. High School.

JKB: And Kennedy?

DD: And Kennedy.

JKB: So where did you live at that time?

DD: When I attended Kennedy? I lived by the lakefront like you.

JKB: Do you think that you should be removed from the Louisiana Legislature?

DD: Well, of course not. I was elected legally. Is this for a report? What’s this all about?

JKB: It’s for my social studies project.

DD: What school do you attend?

JKB: Audubon Montessori.

DD: How old are you?

JKB: Twelve.

DD: What’s your name?

JKB: Jo-Anna Burnett.

DD: OK, Jo-Anna.

JKB: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

DD: Well, I was educated at LSU. I had a scholarship to a school in Austria. I instructed Laotian army officers during the Vietnam War, and I’m very well read. I write magazine articles and books for a living.

JKB: So tell me what happened after you read the book “Race and Reason”?

DD: Race and Reason opened my eyes to the fact that forced integration of education is an education flaw in Louisiana and around the country. Which I think it has, the schools in New Orleans, the public schools have really suffered, and the academic quality have gone down dramatically, forcing the racial thing in place. This has happened in every major city.

JKB: Of the people that I’ve interviewed, the students that I’ve interviewed in my class, they don’t seem to favor you, but you still got elected. Even though they’re just students, they have a point to get across and they represent a little bit of the majority of New Orleans citizens.

DD: Are they mostly white or black or what?

JKB: Mixed.

DD: OK, well, the point is that if the students maybe knew of my true ideas, I think that they would be for me. The people in my district knew of what I truly stood for, instead of the media interpretation of what I stood for. And what I believe in is equal rights for all, that the best qualified should get the job and promotion and scholarship. I’m opposed to racial discrimination on that basis, and I know that racial discrimination goes on today in America against white people in those areas.

JKB: Tell me a little bit about this welfare issue.

DD: What would you like to know about it?

JKB: What do you think of it?

DD: Well, I think we need to reform the welfare system. It is obvious that the welfare system has not solved the poverty problem in America. We have more poor than ever. We have more crime then ever before. Our schools are in worse shape than ever. We have more homeless than ever; and, yet, we’ve spent tremendous amounts of additional monies on poverty, yet we have more problems. So it’s obvious to me that the liberal, so-called solution to the welfare system have not worked.

Now, I’m in favor of two alternatives to the present welfare system. I believe in workfare instead of welfare, whereby people who are able bodies and able to work, whether we give them jobs, and work to receive their welfare benefits. This gets the shirkers off the roll, the people who don’t want to work, contribute, and also gives some dignity back to those who do want to contribute to society. Second, we need to reduce the illegitimate welfare birthrate.

JKB: What does your daughter Erica, who is 13, think of this, about you running for presidency, and then state legislature?

DD: Well, my daughter Erika, who’s 13, and my daughter Kristin, who’s 11, are very proud of their father. In fact, I just got off the phone with Erica right before you called.


DD: And they live in Florida, and their whole school is in favor. They had a mock election and their school elected me for president.

JKB: Do you think that you’ve really changed in the past, what is it, ten years?

DD: Well, I think we all change, and I think that we all grow. And I think that my statements have been recorded and photographed. I think … I’m sure that there are maybe some things in your life that you would change if you could, that you’ve done, whether to individuals or your parents or teachers or friends. And there may be certain changes you’ve had in your own personal outlook toward things in life. And I think that we all do change. But if you are under the impression that I was full of hatred before or advocated violence before, then you have a mistaken impression, a meaning impression, of me because I’ve always stood for equal rights for all.

There are many different Klan groups. I was once in the Klan, but my Klan was legal and law abiding, and simply a white organization that defended our heritage the same way that black groups, many black groups, defend black heritage.

JKB: When was the last time you attended a Klan meeting?

DD: The last time I attended a Klan meeting … 1980, I believe.

JKB: Nineteen-eighty. So you really think you’ve changed?

DD: Well, I’ve grown. My fundamental belief that we should have a society of equal opportunity has not changed. My fundamental belief that I want to preserve my heritage as a white person has not changed. My fundamental belief that America … in American impetus, and Western Civilization is essentially a product of people of European descent and European heritage has not changed. You know, so it depends on how you say changed. I don’t think that the Klan is the best way to affect change; I don’t agree with the image.

JKB: Well, then why were you in it?

DD: I was in it because I was a young person, and I saw the Klan as the only organization defending the rights of my own people and my heritage, just like the blacks have black groups. But I found out that I couldn’t fight the image people had of the organization, the image that the media, to the great extent, creates.

JKB: Tell me about your NAAWP News’ racial slurs.

DD: There’s no racial slurs in my newspaper.

JKB: Well, that’s what I heard in the Times-Picayune Newspaper.

DD: Well, don’t believe everything you read in the Times-Picayune. The Times-Picayune is a New York owned ultra-liberal publication that’s against everything that I stand for, and it’s the only newspaper we have available in New Orleans, and it’s controlled press. And when you only have one source of news, you have a very big danger of news being distorted and lies being told because the people don’t have any other alternative to learn the truth. It’s very dangerous when you have a monopoly of press, and that’s what we have in New Orleans.


DD: The Times-Picayune is committed to things like affirmative action, which is anti-white racial discrimination, and they are against me because I’m opposed to affirmative action. So they have done everything they could to discredit me and to hurt me, and they’ve told a lot of misrepresentations.

JKB: OK, so tell me about your NAAWP News.

DD: NAAWP News is a newspaper which discusses many different subjects and is published by the NAAWP, which is a nonprofit, federally recognized, civil rights organization.

JKB: OK. So, obviously, all this media didn’t hurt your election.

DD: Yes, it did hurt my election.

JKB: It did?

DD: Yes.

JKB: How?

DD: It made the election closer than it would have been otherwise. Because of the small district, people knew me. And all of the lies that the Picayune told caused the election to be a little closer. But no candidate has ever been attacked more than I was attacked in this election. But the people in this district knew me. They knew my ideas and principles, and they elected me in the democratic tradition and the American tradition.

JKB: Why did you leave the Klan?

DD: As I said earlier, I left the Klan because I got tired of fighting the image that the American people might have of it through the media. I wanted to discuss the real issues facing the country and not what’s considered to be auxiliary issues like what the Klan did one hundred years ago, or if the Klan is good or bad. That’s not really the subject. The subject is the issues facing America. The anti-white racial discrimination called affirmative action, destruction of our schools with forced integration of busing, the decline of American quality, the increase in crime and the absolute increase of the welfare underclass so damaging our society.

JKB: So right now you don’t want anyone to you look at your past, but what you‘re going to try to do.

DD: No, I don’t have a problem with anyone looking at my past. I have a problem of people judging me.

JKB: Because of your past.

DD: No.

JKB: No?

DD: I have a problem with people judging me by hearing only, or by reading anti-things about my past. The only way you can judge a person on his past is by hearing or reading both sides. If you just read one side on any subject, or any subject, you can’t get a very good grasp for that particular subject or idea. And the only thing that people get about my past in the media is anti-David Duke.

JKB: Is it true that you were affiliated with some Nazi organization?

DD: No, it’s not.

JKB: OK, so, is the reason why your wife left you, is because you’re affiliated with the Klan?

DD: No, it’s not.

JKB: OK, so tell me a little about yourself.

DD: Well, I already did. I’m a person. I’m concerned very much with ecology. I’m concerned very much with better schools, and the opportunity for everybody in this country, and I’m very concerned about preserving the heritage of my own nation. I don’t want to see this country become like that of Haiti, or Ethiopia or Uganda. I want to see this country reflect the values of our forefathers.

JKB: What happened in 1987 in Forsythe County, Georgia?

DD: You see, let me tell you something. All you’re doing in the interview … all you’re doing in this interview is repeating allegations and attacks made against me by the media. I’m just trying to illustrate a point to you.

If the media was going to be fair, why don’t they tell you about the good things that I have done? Why don’t they tell you about the accomplishments that I’ve had? Why don’t they tell you about my academic record? Why don’t they tell about my social record? Why don’t they tell you about the different things that I’ve done positive? Why is it only negative things? And that’s because the people, who are drawing these things against me, are very negative and one-sided, and it’s ridiculous for someone to answer to.

If you want to talk to Mayor Bartholomew, you don’t talk about some allegation against Mayor Bartholomew ten years ago. You say, “Mayor, what’s your program for the city of New Orleans? What are your ideas? What are your principles? Why do you believe the way that you believe?” et cetera, et cetera?

The media undergoes a continual attack on my heritage, on my past, because it can’t argue my ideas. And in doing you report, you’re relying on media and so your interview is more, “Did you say this? Did you not say that? What happened in this instance? Were you affiliated with these people?” That’s all not the critical issue before us. Because if you go to any important person or any person that does something in their lives, you’re going to find … you’re going to find things in their past that would be controversial.

I dare say … I’m not going to compare myself to Galileo or Jesus Christ. I would never compare myself to Jesus Christ, but imagine what you could have written about Christ if you were a person that didn’t like him. In fact, Christ was so lied about that they crucified the man. They made people hate him so much. You realize that? They made people hate him so much that they actually crucified him. And what could they have written about Christ? They can say, “Well, he went to a religious temple with a bullwhip and drove out the people in the temple and turned over the table. You see what I’m saying? How people can go into someone’s past and distort things and make the issue the past, the issue of what they stand for?

I dare say have you ever done something in your life that you would change. But you would think it was quite unfair if someone is asking you about yourself — and your name is Burnett. If they said, “Did you ever do this to one of your friends in this hostile way? Did you ever do this to one of your family members? Did you do this? Did you do that?” instead of trying to get an overall picture of how you are. And it’s been very, very unfair the way the media has treated me.

JKB: Tell me about the plans that you have in store for Metairie.

DD: Well, Metairie, the plans I have are for the state. Metairie is part of the state. I’m not in charge of the local government in Metairie. I’m one of the legislators who affect our state policy. The plans that I have — as I talked about earlier — I want to reform the welfare system, workfare instead of welfare. I want to reduce the illegitimate welfare birthrate. I want to have more tracking in schools by quality, dividing classes up by basis of the ability of the students, so that they can be educated to the best of their ability. I want to stop the environmental pollution of our waterways. I want to work very hard to prevent the destruction of our wetlands, which is the source of so much beauty, and so much economic base of our entire state.

JKB: How do you plan to do all of that?

DD: Through legislation. Through legislation.

JKB: OK, thanks for this interview.

DD: You’re very welcome, and good luck to you. If you’d like to read more material, you’re welcome to read it. We have some good books. If you want to read a book on a racial situation like integration, I would suggest that you order from us a book called “Race and Reason” by Carlton Putnam. If you want to get that book and read it, then you could maybe get a chance to read the other side and make some better judgments about things. The only way you can judge any issue is to read both sides if you’re truly open-minded.

And, by the way, bigotry means an unreasonable attachment to an idea, and not being open-minded. I’ve read both sides. I’ve read mostly pro-integration, pro-minority and the anti-minority position, so I’m not bigoted cause I’m not prejudging anything about prejudice. I’m open-minded.

And if you’re really interested in the subject, and you really don’t want to make a pre-conclusion, if you don’t want to prejudge me or my ideas, then I really suggest you do some reading and investigation into our side from our own point of view. Not what other people say we say, not from what the media says David Duke says or what the media says my arguments are, but from what David Duke himself says, and from what David Duke himself suggested for you to read from our point of view. That’s the best way you can judge anything.

If you’re really truly a person that wants to investigate, have an open mind and really give people the benefit of the doubt, and have a chance to really discover a truly different point of view, because all of us are wrong from time to time. I’ve changed a lot, my points of view, over the years, but only … the only reason I can change that point of view, is because I’ve been willing to read and study and investigate. You understand?



JKB: Thank you.

DD: You’re very welcome. Have a nice evening.

JKB: You too.

DD: Bye.

JKB: Bye. [Interviewer’s comments.]

David Duke Interview Transcript

David Duke Interview

Interview by Jo-Anna K. Burnett at age 12, with the former the Ku Klux Klan Leader

Sunday, March 12, 1989, 8:20 p.m. to 8:42 p.m.


In 1989, former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Leader David Duke campaigned for the Louisiana House of Representatives. The New Orleans Times-Picayune chronicled this race by carrying Duke’s face and history on its front pages – for what seemed like everyday. I was 12 and amazed, intrigued that such a controversial person sought public office. I was even more impressed with reporters’ stories covering Duke, cutting several clips out of my parents’ home-delivered newspaper.

I chose Duke as my subject for my elementary, Audubon Montessori School, social studies fair – I did not have a premise or thesis, but assumed that popular public sentiment was not in favor of Duke’s run for office.

I videotaped interviews with my classmates at the only public Montessori elementary and middle school in Louisiana at that time. AMS had a racial makeup of about 95 percent white, 4 percent black and 1 percent or less of students of other ethnicities.

“How do you feel about David Duke? Would you vote for him if you could?” I asked my schoolmates. Duke received no words of support from the sixth and seventh graders.

With a tape recorder juxtaposed a speakerphone, I called and interviewed Duke on the telephone – I looked up his name in the city residential listings, obtained his home phone number and called him on a whim, first without prepared questions, then with. I relied on previously read articles for my interview.

This was my first experience with reporting and using live, physical sources, not stored encyclopedia or magazine articles, for my research.

The interview is 21 minutes long.

David Duke Interview