David Neiwert, SPLC, January 13, 2015
The recent scandal that erupted over Rep. Steve Scalise’s speaking appearance before David Duke’s white-supremacist organization, the European-American Union and Rights Organization (EURO), inevitably meant that mainstream media would be turning to Duke himself for answers to their questions. And indeed, Duke was interviewed on several media outlets early this month, on CNN and on Fox News.
And as usually occurs when Duke gets airtime, he parlayed the interview into an opportunity to propagandize and sell both his twisted worldview and his books. Most of all, Duke performed his specialty, which is to sell outright falsehoods and self-serving distortions.
Duke appeared first on CNN with Michael Smerconish for his weekly news-interview program on Jan. 3, then on Jan. 5 for an appearance on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly. On both programs, Duke attempted to make the familiar claim that he isn’t a white supremacist or a racist.
In reality, ethnic advocacy groups such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza (which Duke also mentioned in attempting a similar line of argument with O’Reilly) are genuinely about advancing the interests of the ethnic groups they represent, and are not even remotely hate groups because they do not engage in demonizing and promoting false smears about people of other ethnicities. Nor do they engage in political agendas aimed at attacking the interests of other racial groups.
All of these groups are thus understood to be working well within the mainstream of American politics. So a politician who engages with such groups is indeed listening to a range of his or her constituents and is acting well within the mainstream.
However, that is not the case with any kind of hate group, who typically represent only a tiny bandwidth of any constituency and whose beliefs represent a vicious kind of extremism that the vast majority of Americans repudiate. Any politician who engages with them is not only displaying questionable judgment by coddling frequently violent extremists, but is in the process helping to legitimize them by lending them the credibility of their public office.