Report: Sponsor bans audience for La. Senate debate with David Duke

Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and five other Louisiana Senate candidates will debate in an empty auditorium, the Advocate in Baton Rouge is reporting.

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The newspaper said Raycom Media, the first televised debate’s sponsor, is excluding students, the general public and journalists from an auditorium on the campus of New Orleans's Dillard University, a historically black school. Protests against Duke by students and perhaps others are likely outside the event.

“We just elected to have a closed production,” said Vicki Zimmerman, Raycom’s regional news director.

“I’m not going to elaborate any further than I already did,” she added when asked if Duke’s participation prompted the decision.

The Advocate said the only spectators allowed during Wednesday night’s debate are production staff and five guests from each campaign. The contest is the last debate of Louisiana’s crowded “jungle primary” to replace outgoing Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterLobbying World Senate confirms Trump judge who faced scrutiny over abortion views Collins votes against Trump judicial pick MORE (R).

Duke, a Republican, qualified for the contest late last month by squeaking past the 5 percent threshold necessary for participation in a WAFB/Raycom Media poll.

The other candidates include State Treasurer John Kennedy (R), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) and attorney Caroline Fayard (D). Two Louisiana House lawmakers, GOP Reps. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyMarch tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Bottom Line On The Money: US adds 155k jobs in November | Unemployment holds at 3.7 percent | Wage growth strengthening | Trump signs stopgap spending bill delaying shutdown MORE and John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE, are also participating.

In all, 24 candidates are vying to replace Vitter, who is stepping down in the wake of a prostitution scandal. The two top candidates on Nov. 8 will advance to a runoff vote scheduled for Dec. 10.

Duke attracted national headlines after endorsing GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE earlier this year. Trump ultimately disavowed the white supremacist’s support after widespread backlash.