The man who’s been the national face of overt white supremacist politics for a generation doesn’t want to disclose his communications with the new vanguard of his movement, who are now being sued over a street fight that ended with an innocent woman dead.
David Duke, the prominent KKK official, radio host, and recurring political candidate, is asking a judge to quash a subpoena seeking records of his interactions with the organizers of last August’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In a filing Monday, Duke characterized the records order as overbroad and unmanageable because it fails to specify a time window for the correspondence it seeks. “Movant is an internationally known public figure and receives hundreds of thousands of emails every year. Movant’s email client alone has an astounding 46 gigabytes of text data,” Duke wrote in the filing.
Duke would be happy to tell the court where he stayed the night of August 12, 2017, after the white supremacist rally around a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee which turned into a melee that left roving bands of armed neo-Nazis, militiamen, and counterprotesters roaming the streets for hours thanks to a feckless law enforcement response. But the subpoena’s provision seeking all Duke’s correspondence with event organizers via phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, and the online communications suite Discord — a favorite of the modern white supremacist movement sometimes charitably dubbed the “alt-right” — is “vague, overbroad, unduly burdensome and irrelevant,” Duke wrote.
Duke attended the rally, but is not a party to the lawsuit, which was filed last fall by a group of Virginians who were injured in violence associated with the thousands of racists who marched on Charlottesville on the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12.
“Mr. Duke attended meetings with members of the conspiracy, solicited donations on their behalf, and encouraged others to attend the so-called ‘tiki-torch’ rally on August 11 at which several of our clients were injured,” plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a statement in response to the motion.
It is perhaps an odd sensation for Duke to find himself so far to the sideline of the largest white supremacist rally in decades that he couldn’t even manage to get himself sued over it directly. Until President Donald Trump’s campaign galvanized the newly digital neo-Nazi movement in 2015 and 2016, Duke had been by far the most prominent torch-bearer for white nationalism in the United States.
His desire to wriggle out of his bit part in the civil suit against Jason Kessler and other white nationalist organizers behind Unite the Right is uncharacteristic of his generally spotlight-happy approach to his cause. A former senior official in the Ku Klux Klan and sometime candidate for U.S. Senate and other elected offices, Duke’s name is synonymous with white supremacy thanks to his broad willingness to speak to reporters on behalf of racist ideology.
Duke famously endorsed Trump during the 2016 GOP primary, with the then-candidate initially refusing to distance himself from the notoriously virulent racist. When Trump decried “both sides” of the Charlottesville clashes days after a white supremacist attendee had driven his car into a group of peaceful anti-racist demonstrators hours after the melee, Duke was one of the few public figures to praise the president’s comments.
In interviews from the rally, Duke described it as a “turning point” and said that “[w]e are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” A couple hours after he made those predictions, Heather Heyer was killed and dozens more were injured by the driver while marching and chanting anti-racist and anti-fascist slogans a few blocks from the park.