Dukes anti-Semitism alive as he runs again for Senate

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

NEW YORK — David Duke is back, and time has not altered his views of Jews, blacks or immigrants.

In Louisiana, the former Ku Klux Klan leader is making another bid for the U.S. Senate; moderate Democrat Sen. J. Bennett Johnston is retiring. Johnston defeated Duke six years ago.

Appearing July 9 on the nationally televised Jerry Springer talk show, Duke said there are "different points of view" about whether or not the Holocaust occurred.

He called 6 million — the generally accepted number of Jews killed — "an exaggerated figure."

"I wonder why, every day in our media, we constantly hear about Jewish victims of that Holocaust, but we don't hear about the Christian victims," he said. "I think there are political reasons for that."

"There was not a planned program of extermination. There were atrocities that took place, but it wasn't a plan to exterminate the Jewish people," he said.

"There's no way to know the truth unless you allow every point of view to be presented," Duke continued.

"The French Huguenots were very much oppressed…But now we've learned that a lot of those Huguenots actually exaggerated some of that," Duke told Springer, who is Jewish and the child of Holocaust survivors.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana state Legislature and in 1990 ran for a Senate seat. He garnered 44 percent of the vote against the incumbent. The Republican establishment at that time rejected Duke.

But Louisiana's Republican governor, Mike Foster, said in late June of this year that he would back the winner of the Republican primary, even if it is Duke.

A few days later, Foster released a statement addressing his earlier view without mentioning Duke.

"I have not, do not and will not condone racism [or] anti-Semitism…and I will not support anyone for any public office who promotes such," Foster said.

The Jewish community both nationally and locally has so far been quiet on the matter. The Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge has not taken a position and the New Orleans Jewish Community Relations Council has taken no action opposing Duke, said CRC director Jill Goldwater.

In Louisiana's Jewish community there seems to be a lone voice against Duke: Rabbi Barry Weinstein, of Baton Rouge's B'nai Israel Synagogue, who said, "A lot of Jewish people here can remember when the Klan was very active. So now there's a reluctance to stir the waters."

Weinstein's efforts to mobilize fellow clergy have met with apathy.

"I would like there to have been a mass uprising, but there has not been. There has been silence even from the black ministers," said the Reform rabbi. "I find us to be in a precarious time. What's happening here is a barometer for where the nation is."

Weinstein is also concerned about Foster's "close relationship" with Duke.

"When a sitting governor can flirt with a Nazi sympathizer, then I say something's wrong," he said. But the governor's press secretary, Marsanne Golsby, said Foster is not closely tied to Duke.

"David Duke wishes they were close," she said. "Duke calls the governor; the governor does not call Duke."

When asked whether Foster takes Duke's calls, she said he does "on very rare occasions."

Last year, during Foster's campaign, Duke gave Foster "a warm, quasi-official endorsement," Weinstein said.

Weinstein and other Jewish leaders met at that time with Foster, who said he could not afford to alienate Duke's supporters by distancing himself from the racist candidate, but promised to do so if elected.

He has "violated his personal promise" by not doing so, Weinstein said.