Wednesday, 24 October 2018 19:51

The Rise and Fall of David Duke; Tyler Bridges discusses new book

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David Duke has certainly become a household name in the United States and in some respects, worldwide.

He is an integral part of an angry moment in Louisiana and America’s history.

So, who is he? How did he become such a virulent white supremacist and anti-Semite?  What do we know about him that might be helpful to understand others who peddle in the far-right wing (or even far-left) swirl?


One of the persons who can answer some of these questions is Tyler Bridges, reporter and author. Bridges has been covering the Louisiana legislative and political scene for The Advocate, I first met him when he emerged as the leading reporter following David Duke entry into Louisiana-elective politics, then, during the Louisiana District 81 election in Metairie.  Duke beat John Treen in the runoffs. The contest caught the imagination and the daily attention of the national media.   Duke, like no other politician before him, brought up issues, using coded language that others on the right rejected. The Metairie resident had a past but the focus was on his future since he had convinced many that the bygones of Klan and Nazi materials were from a different time.

In 1994, Bridges wrote his first book about Duke.It was called The Rise of David Duke. Indeed, at that time, Duke’s star was rising and the only questions appeared to be how high and how fast?

Twenty-four years later, Bridges has written and self-published the sequel. As is a fact of nature and sometimes, of humanity, where there is a rise, there will be a fall.

This morning, I discussed The Rise and Fall of David Duke with Bridges during a Facebook and Twitter Live.  Here is part one of the interview which is focused upon why does the book matter?  Part 2, Friday

(You can purchase the book by following this link. You can also attend a book-signing Thursday night at the Octavia Book Store

SABLUDOWSKY: What prompted you, to write both (The Rise of David Duke and The Rise and Fall of David Duke?

BRIDGES: The original book was a product of my coverage with the Times-Picayune. I began working for the Times Picayune in January of 1989 and the following month David Duke surprised people by getting elected to the state legislature from Metairie, and I think Steve you remember those times and Duke made a name for himself in the legislature with his racially-charged comments and legislation that he sponsored and as you will remember he ran for the senate in 1990 and won over half the white vote in losing to the incumbent   Bennett Johnston, and again you lived through this, the race in 1991 for governor.

The primary, he knocked out Buddy Roemer the incumbent and faced off again to Edwin Edwards in an election that became national news and I was the lead reporter and I knew more about David Duke than anyone else.

I'd investigated him very thoroughly and wrote a lot of stories for the Times Picayune newspaper about him and then Duke chose to run for president in '92 which was a mistake on his part politically, and I followed him on that as well, and then so I thought let me write a book about this guy, cuz that so often it was frustrating to me how many media accounts were wrong and how often Duke was able to manipulate reporters who had not done their homework.

University Press published the initial book The Rise of David Duke in 1994. so I went off and covered other things, I moved to Florida, I moved to South America and Duke ran a couple of more times for office in Louisiana, but I stopped covering him and then really, i had not thought very much about David Duke over the years and then in 2016 he reappeared really because he endorsed Donald Trump for president early on at a time when a lot of people were still shying away from him and when I reporter, not me, discovered that Duke had endorsed Trump and wrote a story about it,  that became news and then it became even more news when Trump initially did not disavow Duke. and, so and then, Duke made headlines when he was at the white supremacist March and riot in Charlottesville in 2017.

I thought it was a really good idea, because people are writing about David Duke to update readers on exactly who he is.

SABLUDOWSKY: So the book that you have now, the Rise and Fall of David Duke, is it a combination of the first book and the second book, so if you failed to read the first book then that information is all in the second book or is it just the update?

BRIDGES: Yes, so the Rise and Fall of David Duke, which I've just published is the original book which had 10 chapters, same footnotes, same photographs, same text, with four new chapters and it covers basically Duke from 1994 through up to now and so it's again a combination of the original book and the new material that I have researched and written.

SABLUDOWSKY: Yesterday, I posted on Facebook about our event this morning and a friend of mine said "who cares" and saying that only liberals care, because otherwise David Duke would be irrelevant and I understand exactly why that person said that, so let me just post it to you-- iI personally think its history and so we need to read and understand history just like the confederate monuments, we need to be aware of that, so in your opinion, how would you respond to someone who says, who cares?

BRIDGES: Well, a lot of people care because David Duke is constantly in the news.  in 2016 as I mentioned it was a big news when he endorsed Donald Trump and then when Donald Trump did not disavow him and then when Donald Trump did finally just disavow Duke that made from for more news. and that white supremacist March in Charlottesville got  huge coverage, not only in the country but abroad as well. and David Duke has shown that he still is newsworthy. recently, I don't know if you saw the movie I did, Black Klansman, the fact that the movie was based on a book and so there was tons of news stories about the actor who portrayed David Duke in the movie.  So, David Duke, it's not just history, there's a lot--it's mostly history at this point, but he's still making news, he still a present figure and also raises questions with authorized with all the alt-right and Duke is one of the leaders of what is now called the alt-right and extremist right. The Klan the neo-nazis, the white supremacists, these folks are still making news today.

SABLUDOWSKY: Absolutely, there's no question, especially given the fact that the President has declared himself a nationalist and did you check to see whether or not any responses from anybody in the alt-right or David Duke respond to that?

BRIDGES: Respond to what?

SABLUDOWSKY: To the President describing himself as a Nationalist 

BRIDGES: I'm not aware of that specific thing but again Duke is making news when he will say something.  He recently he made some favorable comments about the extremist right political candidate in Brazil who looks like he's going to be the next president of Brazil.  New York Times wrote a story about that, it was written about--in Brazil.  So again, Duke, because he is regarded as the leading racist in this country, when he will say certain things, the media will write about it, and then again, I thought it was important for people to understand exactly who this guy is.  you know I don't know if your people watching this know this, but Steve, you did a lot of spade work back in the day, along with others, to oppose Duke, to try to expose him.  and I was doing my job and trying to write about him to help people better understand then who he was as a political candidate and now in the a more historical way, but also up to date because he still makes news.

SABLUDOWSKY: Yep, it was certainly an experience..let's see Tim Allen Matthew says "I'm in the same boat-- why make this guy relavent, it's a history book or a political book. So it's out there in terms of why, hey why--even talk, why you mention his name? So..

BRIDGES: Let me just jump in, historically, the historical question so it was back in 1990, 1991 not too long ago, that this guy went over half the white vote, when he ran first the Senate and then for governor and even earlier when Duke was in the Klan, when he was a Klan Grand wizard, he was pushing issues, particularly against affirmative action, minority set aside, quotas, against illegal immigration--very racially charged issues and and Donald Trump is doing the same thing today.  If you want to understand what's going on today and that's what the benefit of history is, to write about history of what happened before, so people can understand it and make connections about understand what's going on

SABLUDOWSKY: That's why I support Keeping Up The Monuments because they are historical, education. If you don't understand what history is, then you just going to repeat 

Purchase the book: The Rise and Fall of David Duke

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