When should a racist get radio air time?

NPR’s news bosses had a tough call this morning when it had to decide whether to give some of its precious air time to a racist.

David Duke probably isn’t going to win a Senate seat in Louisiana. There are too many people running for the gig and the Republican Party has already said it won’t support him.

So what makes David Duke worthy of NPR airtime for a race among other candidates whom NPR probably won’t invite on Morning Edition?

The former head of the Ku Klux Klan loves Donald Trump and everything he stands for.

  1. Listen Steve Inskeep interviews David Duke

    August 5, 2016

Duke, of course, has been around a long time and if Trump hadn’t been running for president, NPR likely wouldn’t have given him the time of day.

But Trump is running and won’t submit to questioning from people at NPR like Steve Inskeep, so — just as it interviewed Pat Buchanan a few months ago — NPR is forced to talk to the company Trump keeps, philosophy-wise.

In introducing the audio this morning, Inskeep, as skilled an interviewer as there is, defended the decision to give Duke a soapbox.

“Trump’s campaign has disavowed Duke’s support more than once,” he said. “Yet that has not stopped some white supremacists from attaching themselves to Trump. We listen to the former Klansman because he represents the way white supremacists do that.”

The New York Times did the same thing with its viral video this week (language warning).

“These are just nothing more than epithets and vicious attacks,” Duke said of the claim by some Republican leaders that Trump does not reflect the values of the party. “Donald Trump is not a racist. And the truth is, in this country, if you simply defend the heritage of European American people, then you’re automatically a racist. There’s massive racial discrimination against European Americans, and that’s the reality.”

“You know that white people in this country still have the overwhelming preponderance of wealth and power, right?” Inskeep said.

“Well they don’t really have the overwhelming—European American history—no, they don’t. I mean, Hollywood is not controlled by traditional European American heritage,” Duke responded.

Jews, in other words.


Inskeep didn’t mix mince words as he introduced another part of the interview. He said Duke was “unspooling old racist theories that he said were not racist.”

He made no secret that the point of the interview was to link Trump to racist theories, a task that Trump’s own words and actions have accomplished to some degree.

Duke didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before and his appearance on NPR raises an old debate: When should racism get a voice to expose it as racism and when should it be denied a microphone?

“This is the kind of story that I am sure your news division director, Michael Oreskes, is very proud to present on NPR so as to get all views represented,” one commenter on npr.org wrote. “Why he, the network, or Morning Edition deem it newsworthy is beyond me.”

“Obviously, Duke is a racist; however, I am glad NPR had him on,” countered another. “I think in the effort for stressing equality, the media and political powers to be are magnifying other cultures, while suppressing European culture and its achievements. The DNC convention made great efforts to have and promote everything but the European/white male. Simply put, all cultures have good things and bad. The native Americans were slaughtering each other long before the white man came. Africans to this date are slaughtering each other, especially in the 90s.”

If she’s looking for a topic to write about, NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen now has one.

  • PaulJ

    Is there a difference between racists who admit to it and those that deny that they are?

    • wjc

      Self awareness?

      • PaulJ

        Matter of degree?

    • Rob

      No. If it talks and acts like a racist, it’s a racist. Self-awareness or not.

      • PaulJ

        Seeing things as black and white, in this arena?

        • Rob

          black and white – that’s a good one!

  • Sam M

    I think it would be more dangerous to suppress such views. It is helpful for all of us to understand that dangerous and vile views are held by a lot of people out there (thankfully not the majority) and to pretend it doesn’t or to ignore it does more damage than good.

    The interview was masterfully done by Mr. Inskeep and exposed Duke for what he really is. Well done.

    • But didn’t we already know what Duke really is?

      • Sam M

        Not necessarily.

        For myself I had only heard what others had to say about him and what position he had held in the past. To actually hear him state his positions and opinions was enlightening and a good reminder that there are lots of people out there similarly dangerous ideas.

      • rallysocks

        I think plenty of people know what Duke really is, but I think those of a younger age don’t. And there is still the pervasive pervading view that there is no racism in this country anymore. That Duke has a following, clearly shows there still is–and getting that out there in legitimate, responsible media is mighty important.

        • crystals

          Totally agree. I had a similar experience come up a few years back with Oral Roberts University. I quickly realized that people my age and up (late 30s) had knowledge of and very strong opinions about the school, myself included, and that a comparable group of colleagues ten years younger generally had absolutely no idea that a partnership with ORU might be controversial.

    • DarNamell

      This is Inskeep’s bread and butter though. He brings out and gives voice to the Glenn Becks, Richard Lands, Pat Buchanans, and David Dukes of the world.

      Sure, they might be a challenging question or two, but no condemnation of their stance. They are given – and gleefully take – the same status as anyone working to improve our world together. They gain more than the listeners get.

      I don’t know if Inskeep knows he’s an enabler or if he’s really foolish enough to think this helps the public discourse. Either way, I feel my pledge money being pissed down the drain every time he does it.

  • lindblomeagles

    The question, “when should a racist get air time,” is a poor question because it gives the impression racism has never received air time. That is historically, and in the present given Donald’s Trump’s statements, inaccurate. One great example was former radio personality Don Imus. Although he was fired in 2007 for calling Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos,” Imus already had a reputation long before that of spewing racist language over the airwaves. Another long time radio personality whom we all know holds racist views is Rush Limbaugh. Duke clearly could have gone onto Limbaugh’s show to say what was on his mind. More to the point, racism has been around since settlers arrived. By now, we all should be keenly aware of what Duke or any other racist has to say. Duke isn’t breaking new ground with what he has to say, nor is he providing a voice to people who haven’t said the things he thinks. What racists lament is not lack of voice; it’s lack of legislation—the laws that kept whites and minorities separate and unequal.

    • ” it gives the impression racism has never received air time. ”

      I don’t see how that could possibly be a logical conclusion, especially since it referenced the earlier interview with Patrick Buchanan.

      And who on earth would ever suggest racism has never gotten airtime?

      Nope. No sale .

      • lindblomeagles

        “And who on earth would ever suggest racism has never gotten airtime?” Doesn’t the question above ask “When should a racist get air time?”

        • John

          I’m pretty sure the unspoken finish to that title is “on NPR in 2016,” but I could be wrong. . .

          At any rate, I took the headline to mean today and now, not historically and ever.

          • lindblomeagles

            Which gets back again to the point I made to
            Bob. Racists do in fact get airtime today. That’s what Fox Radio is for. That’s what Rush Limbaugh is for. I go back to my question again, why are we asking when should they get air time, when they are currently getting air time?

          • Let me try this another way. Pretend you’re the editor at NPR — this sort of question used to be preceded by the category “You are Editor” but I didn’t think people needed that guidance anymore.

            Do you interview David Duke? Why or why not?

            I hope that provides more guidance.

      • PaulJ

        Defining racist would be a good place to start. I’ve heard it defined as a person who uses their situational advantage to harm someone based on their race; is that correct?

        • Oh my goodness, people, are we seriously going to say we don’t know the definition of racism in 2016.

          Here’s the one I’m going with: David Duke.

          • PaulJ

            Always (Mission Impossible )

          • lindblomeagles

            And if polled many Trump supporters Bob, many of them would tell you with a straight face they aren’t racist nor do they harbor any racist feelings towards anybody. Matter of fact, North Carolina’s Governor and Lower Court tried to take the “I’m not racist” position with respect to their Voter ID Law. The Appeals Court not only said their law was racist, but it said it quote, “the law targets African Americans with surgical precision.”

      • Rob

        Racism has gotten more than enough airtime, IMHO. I know – let’s have an indefinite moratorium on giving haters an open mike to bloviate about their repugnant viewpoints.

    • lindblomeagles

      I feel the need to explain something else too regarding this ugly and fictional notion that European American values are under attack in the United States. American citizens, be they white, black, Asian, etc., naturalized or immigrants, find something appealing about many of the positive European American values echoed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. We, as a nation, see this every year during the Fourth of July; to a large extent at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s; in the small, miniscule number of Americans leaving the United States to live someplace else in the world; and, to a large extent, in our daily meals. What had been historically attacked, and for good reason, was the vile way European Americans mistreated people of color and how that vile way used to not be mentioned anywhere in US History books; the former European American assumption that people of color were incapable of higher thinking or similar adult, professional and academic skills; and people of color’s former legalized inability to prove that they could be just as successful as European Americans could be if they were given a chance.

    • Rob

      If NPR feels that they haven’t interviewed enough racists, they could have Limbaugh on…

  • Kurt O

    Let’s just admit it: NPR hates Trump, like most media outlets, and is trying show just how odious he is. That’s fine, and I agree, but don’t act like talking to another odious person is providing is a fair and balanced view on the election. Is there going to be an interview with a similarly controversial supporter of Clinton? Or with a person who is a Trump supporter that is a generally admired person?

    • rallysocks

      Do you listen to NPR?

      • Kurt O


        • rallysocks

          Good. Perhaps I have read your comment wrong, but Hillary isn’t treated as a Princess by NPR.

          • Gary F


          • rallysocks


      • Kurt O

        I also listen to bits of conservative shows on Sirius and occasionally Rush Limbaugh so I can hear their views myself. I can’t stomach Trump in the least, but am curious to hear why he is getting support.

        • Rob

          not sure why you’re torturing yourself by listening to the penultimate, one-note gasbag. different strokes, I guess…

          • Kurt O

            It’s not about agreeing with anything the talk radio people say. I listen to what they say so I can see issues from their perspective, even if it’s totally insane. Heck, sometimes I listen to “Darkness Radio” to hear people talking about ghosts in their basements and psychic powers. That stuff is certifiably crazy BS, but I’ve looked beyond that and can see why people could believe in nonsense.

    • What would be an “equal” to David Duke?

      • Kurt O

        That’s a very good question, I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head, which makes the interview with Duke even more questionable to me.

        This election bothers me for many reasons. It’s starting to look more like mashup of playground taunting being reported by TMZ than a serious process.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        I’m your Huckleberry; I just can’t take the hypocrisy any longer.

        “White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got
        around to it.”

        “So [if] some cracker,” he continued, “come and tell you ‘Well my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,’ you better hold you pocket. That ain’t
        nothing to be proud of, that means their forefathers was crooks.”

        “You a punk faggot” (To Morton Downey Jr.)

        ~ The most Reverend Al Sharpton

        These racist statements are a mirror image of the things Duke has said about Africans. In fact, I’m sure Sharpton got the idea for these arguments from Duke.

        And what does Hillary Clinton have to say about such virulent racism?



        So, in this case, it is not a racist clinging to a candidate, it is a candidate clinging to a racist.

        I suppose some might point out that Sharpton has been embraced, not only by the left, but has been a frequent guest in Obama’s White House so Hillary is merely following an entrenched leftist tradition.

        *drops mic*

        • crystals

          Your definition of a mic drop and my definition of a mic drop are wildly different from one another.

          Last I checked, Al Sharpton was not a candidate for higher office. David Duke is. Your attempt to somehow compare the two, while getting a few shots at Obama and Clinton? Not particularly compelling.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            The question was “What would be an “equal” to David Duke?”

            Sharpton has run for office several times.

            Duke has been thoroughly and unequivocally repudiated by the GOP, and by Trump.

            Sharpton gets “Happy Birthday” calls from Democrat candidates for POTUS and invites to the White House by the sitting Democrat POTUS.

            That, my friend, is the very definition of a mic drop moment.

          • crystals


          • Kurt O

            Bonus points for using “repudiated”! I thought about using it but couldn’t work it in.

            This unemployment thing is leaving me with too much time on my hands to think about fun words. Unfortunately “odious” and “repudiate” don’t look good on a resume.

          • rallysocks

            Did he run for office on a Black Supremacy platform?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I don’t think Sharpton was explicit, other than frequent outbursts of what is going on inside his head, about his racism as a platform per se.

            But David Duke was, when he ran for Louisiana Senate in 1975 and 1978 and for President in 1979 and 1988….as a Democrat.

            He tried to walk back his past in 1990, when he made another run for US Senate as a Republican, but the national GOP repudiated him anyway, right away.

            He also tried to soften his racism during the 1992 GOP presidential primaries. The GOP tried to block his campaign completely, but it didn’t matter since he didn’t get a single delegate vote anyway.

            As has been pointed out, not only do the Dems support Sharpton, I don’t find any evidence the party repudiated Duke when he ran as a Democrat, although it seems likely many individuals did.

            A thoughtful person would take the time to consider the implications of historical as well as the present day connection between the Democrat party, racism and racists before insinuating the GOP somehow owns the patent on racial bigotry.

          • rallysocks

            His definition of defending is also a bit off.

        • So when Hillary Clinton was asked specifically about racism and Al Sharpton, she said “Happy birthday”?


          On the matter of who built the pyramids, you’re saying white people did?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Now you’re defending racists. Perfect.

            My work here is done.

          • I don’t think there’s any question that Sharpton is an incredibly polarizing figure and that there’s widespread disagreement on him.

            Is there widespread disagreement on David Duke?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            No, everyone agrees that Duke is an unabashed racist. Not even Duke disagrees with that.

            The fact that, among the left, there is room for argument about Sharpton isn’t a feature, it’s a point worthy of condemnation. I think you know, that for every racist remark Duke has ever made, we could find an equally offensive remark by Sharpton; hell the two of them hate Jews equally.

            I think, also, though you’d never admit it, that Sharpton is given a wink and a nod because he has something the Democrat party wants: black voters.

            The lesson I see in the comments here, besides the over the top display of hypocrisy, is that for the left, racism is acceptable if it furthers the leftist agenda and a weapon if it hinders it. What I don’t see is, it’s simply and always ignorant and always wrong.

        • Rob

          What’s racist about pointing out that the pyramids weren’t built by white people and noting that a lot of our white forefathers were slaveholders?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I really didn’t need the reinforcement of my observation, but thanks for jumping right in there anyway, Bob.


          • Rob

            The question still remains: what’s racist about Sharpton’s comments on historical facts?

    • Kurt O

      I can’t believe we’ve gone this long without someone catching how I slipped in “fair and balanced” in reference to NPR…

      I also had to use “odious” (Twice!) because when else would it work so well?

      Have a great weekend everybody

  • Wendy

    Yes. At least you know where David Duke is coming from. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t…and that’s the caution. The head of the NAACP in Minneapolis is a segregationist, without a doubt, and she receives air time on MPR frequently. How is her rhetoric less vitriolic, offensive and misguided than Duke’s? Let’s not be hypocrtical.

  • It is a worthwhile interview. NPR listeners, being rather civil folks, may not be aware of just how widespread overt racism is. Few of us can stomach Rush Limbaugh and his clones, so we have not heard the ongoing sometimes unsubtle racism on talk radio. We mustn’t forget that these shows have audiences – people who are disaffected, often uneducated and unlikely to read much, and who are looking for someone to affirm their feelings. Duke’s words on NPR will be parsed much differently by the public radio audience than they would be if broadcast on AM talk radio.

  • Gary F

    Have they interviewed Louis Farrakhan or Robert Byrd in the past?

  • Mike Worcester

    I listened to the interview on my morning commute and came away with a couple observations:
    1. Steve Inskeep did not let him just prattle on with out being challenged. That was good.
    2. Interviewing Duke reminds us that people like him (read – are of a particular mindset) are active members of our political landscape and need to be called out when necessary.
    3. It is good to remember Duke for what he stands for *and* clue in a new set of voters/listeners to who he is. It was 25 years ago when he ran for LA governor. There are folks who have no active memories of him during his “heyday”. I’m almost fifty so I certainly do. Someone under thirty and especially not politically attuned like many of this blog’s readership, perhaps not so much.

    Listening to him may have made my skin crawl, but at least his words are out there and can be used as examples of what Bob noted earlier — the very definition of racism.

  • Khatti

    Freedom of speech means you’re going to be offended–frequently.

  • Rob

    Did I miss something? Drumpf, who is clearly a racist, gets plenty of airtime on NPR. There’s no need for the organization to provide airtime to other racists.

  • MarkUp

    I spent 5 minutes learning that the former leader of the KKK was a white supremacist who supports Trump. I can’t say I really learned anything new.

    Spending 30+ minutes listening to the latest Code Switch podcast on Journalists of Color was a lot more enlightening. Please take the time to fill your ears with something better than Mr. Duke:

  • Badboy35

    Duke is clearly a racist and the press points this out. Trump is also a racist, the press doesn’t call him out and talks to him constantly. What is wrong with this picture?