Page 2


An Interview with David Duke Metairie, La. IASKED DAVID DUKE for an interview through his press secretary, Laura Otillio. I explained to her that the Observer, a liberal bi-weekly journal, was doing a special issue on Duke and asked that I be allowed to tape the interview and bring a photographer. I invited Duke to tape his end of the interview, too, if he wished. We agreed on a date and time, but before Otillio confirmed that the event would definitely take place, she asked that I fax her, not the questions I would ask Duke, but the topics I wished to cover. I did this the morning of January 7th.’ That afternoon Otillio confirmed the interview for 11 a.m. on January 10th at Duke’s home and headquarters in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb which lies immediately west of New Orleans between Lake Pontchartrain where the causeway takes out across the lake and the Mississippi River at its northerly bend at Nine Mile Point, just before it forms the spouted bowl the Big Easy fills. Duke’s house is located in a somewhat run-down middleand lowermiddle-class white neighborhood a few blocks from Airline Highway, where the Texas Motel advertises “HBO XXX Movie,” you can trade at Hubcab Heaven or the Metairie Pawn Shop, and the Garden of Memories Cemetery is adorned with a cumbrously flapping American flag that is as big as a bedsheet. The night before the interview, while having a couple of beers on Airline in a bar with pool tables, I heard the white patrons talking about “Niggerville” down the road, as distinguished from the white section for which one of them was setting forth. At the intersection of Cypress and North Arnoult, embedded among the smallish homes of his neighborhood, some of them in bad need of paint, but smack up against the institutional-looking “Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Duke’s low-slung two-story house squats. During the interview he said he bought it for $20,000, but did not mention when. It is a plain structure of white clapboards and white-stucco facing, dominated by a peaked second-story front. At the side were parked six or eight cars belonging to people who are working on Duke’s presidential campaign, which he is conducting from here. This same house has served as the headquarters of Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White Peopleits newsletter is run off in his basementand as the “bookstore” from which Duke was selling pro-Nazi books until he was exposed for still doing it two and a half years ago, when the house was also his state legislative office. Through a door where the cars are parked one enters, at what can be thought of as the basement level, a small reception room wherein one is greeted from her desk by the secretary and receptionist, a slender dark-haired young woman named Brenda. Three doors lead off the room to work areas but are kept closed and signs on them warn visitors not to intrude before knocking. There is a worktable along the back of the room, and from time to time Mark Ellis, who carries the title, “director of research,” in the campaign, comes in and uses the phone there. The walls are bedecked with five large, different photographs of Duke, “Duke for President” signs, and a painting of the American flag sandwiched between the words, “It Wasn’t Earned/To Be Burned.” Tacked onto the walls, too, are two flyers advertising Duke Records’ Album, endorsed by a signed statement from Duke, on which album can be heard, “The Ballad of David Duke.” Otillio led me and the photographer, New Orleans freelancer A.J. Sisco, back out of the reception room around the outside of the house and up the front stairs into what would normally be, in such a house, the small living and dining rooms, but instead serves as Duke’s public office area. Duke greeted us at the front door in shirtsleeves, but, upon 24 JANUARY 17 & 31, 1992 Duke during the interview on January 10th. understanding that he would be photographed, went back into another room to dress for the pictures. What would be the dining room is furnished with a large standard-issue office desk stained mohogany and a flowered couch in front of and to one side of the desk, and rugs decorated with geometrical designs. I sat at the corner of the couch near the desk and positioned my small tape recorder on the corner of the desk. Duke’s Samson wordprocessor and Packard printer are positioned to the right of his armchair at the desk. When, dressed in a blue suit and a figured blue tie, Duke rejoined us, I gave him a copy of my book about Lyndon Johnson, The Politician, by way, I explained, of introducing myself. He paged through it, laughingly saying it was rougher than J. Evetts Haley’s A Texan Looks at Lyndon, eh? No, I said, not that rough. He asked me to sign it, and I said I would. He inquired how much time I needed, and I said as much as he would spare. Since by then it was about 11:20, he said perhaps we’d just go on into the noon hour and have lunch together. Fine, I said. Just before I turned on my tape recorder, he said something like, “So tell me about the Observer.” The interview continued for about an hour anda half. The transcript of it which follows, edited and somewhat shortened, presents all of substance that was said. R.D.