Gov. John Bel Edwards fields questions from listeners as monthly radio show debuts _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- On his 100th day in office, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards fields questions from callers during his first "Ask the Governor" radio show with Jim Engster at Louisiana Radio Network in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend were driven by "repugnant" views, and he denounced one of the group's main sympathizers on Wednesday.

"This idea that you can be patriotic and be a Nazi at the same time... It's the antithesis of patriotism," Edwards told listeners during his monthly call-in radio show.

Edwards, a former Army Ranger and West Point graduate, said that the soldiers who fought in World War II against Nazis were patriots and questioned how Nazis today could be seen as the same.

Edwards' comments came a day after President Donald Trump faced rebuke over comments blaming "both sides" for violence that erupted as white nationalists and neo-Nazis protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Three people were killed during the violent clashes, including a woman who was run down when a car slammed into counter-protesters and two state troopers who were monitoring the events via helicopter.

"I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country – a horrible moment," Trump said Tuesday, speaking to reporters at Trump Tower in New York. "But there are two sides to the country."

Trump's remarks were largely praised by white supremacists and other extremists, including David Duke, the Mandeville resident and former Ku Klux Klan leader who marched in Charlottesville over the weekend.

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Trump told reporters that he wasn't aware that Duke had attended the Charlottesville rallies.

Asked specifically about Duke during his radio show, Edwards said the former state lawmaker and perennial candidate for elected office in Louisiana "does not represent the great state of Louisiana."

Duke served one term in the Louisiana House in the late 1980s-early 90s and made a high-profile run for governor in 1991, losing to Edwin Edwards. Duke most recently ran for U.S. Senate in Louisiana last fall, again capturing national attention but only about 3 percent of the vote and a 7th-place finish.

Other topics of Edwards' radio show included the flooding in New Orleans, continued recovery from last year's catastrophic floods throughout the state, and ongoing efforts to resolve the state's looming budget crisis.

Louisiana is tracking toward a $1 billion-plus shortfall in the coming year, when a one-cent sales tax hike expires June 30. Democrat Edwards and state legislators, specifically Republican leaders in the House, have found themselves at odds over how to shore up the state's finances ahead of the so-called "fiscal cliff." 

Lawmakers eschewed an opportunity to address the issue during the most recent legislative session. Because of state laws limiting issues that can be taken up in legislative sessions in even-numbered years, Edwards will have to call a special session to give the Legislature the opportunity to take up revenue items. He has said he won't do so without a clear path toward consensus.

Before taking to the airwaves on Wednesday, Edwards met with House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, to discuss the budget.

"It was a good, frank exchange," Edwards said during the radio show. "It's a difficult situation, but I was very pleased with the meeting I had this morning."

He said that he feels that there is a sincere willingness to work toward a compromise and he lauded involvement from the business community.

"I genuinely sense that we are coming together," he said.

Barras did not respond to The Advocate's request for comment on the meeting.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.