Los Angeles Times: Storm rises of Ex-Klansman at Debate

Politics: Prop. 209 backers attack Cal State Northridge invitation to David Duke as a dirty trick. Students say they just wanted to get big names.

By Sharon Bernstein

Times Staff Writer

What student leaders say was a simple attempt to bring big names to a campus debate at Cal State Northridge has ballooned into a national controversy over affirmative action, Proposition 209 on the California ballot and the Ku Klux Klan.

It has provided a coast-to-coast forum for the views of ex-Klan leader David Duke, who was invited by the students to speak against affirmative action at a debate Sept. 25. And it has got supporters of Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action measure, boiling mad as they accuse the measure’s opponents of what they call a dirty trick – trying to link the proposition in voters’ minds with Duke and Klan-style racism.

Tuesday, Duke appeared on four California – based radio talk shows, and has been on several other shows – two of them syndicated nationally – over the past two weeks, said Glenn Montecino, Duke’s spokesman. On Monday, Duke was featured in a CNN piece, and several national and regional newspapers have weighed in.

Duke has expressed strong support for Proposition 209 in his appearances, even saying that the measure, which would ban affirmative action by state and local government agencies in California, doesn’t go far enough.

On programs in Sacramento and Los Angeles today, he decried affirmative action and the increase in minority populations in major U.S. cities. He accused minority men of raping white women “by the thousands” and said black New Orleans police officers had raped and killed local citizens.

All of Duke’s California media appearances, Montecino said, have been prompted by controversy at Cal State Northridge. The attention is welcomed by Duke, Montcino said, who enjoys sparring with talk show hosts and is running for the U.S. Senate in Lousiana.

“He’s not running in California but it does help.”, Montecino said.

The student leaders who voted 12 to 11 to bring Duke to their debate say they dont know what all the fuss is all about.

Student Senate President Vladimir Cerna said the student government simply wanted to bring well known figures to the campus to debate affirmitive action. They invited many including Colin Powell and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, but only Duke accepted, he said.

But Ward Connerly, a University of California regent and chairman of the “YES 209” campaign describes the Duke’s Northridge appearance as a sleazy political ploy to associate the anti-affirmative action initiative with the KKK which is leathed by many voters. Connerly has offered to appear in favor of the Northridge debate but only if students rescind Duke’s invitation.

“It’s so transparent,” Connerly said Tuesday. “Just strip away the political trickery that’s involved.”

During the weekend, Connerly said he had a source at Cal State Northridge who could prove that Duke’s appearance was engineered by opponents of Proposition 209.

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