JBE in Monroe 110619

Gov. John Bel Edwards rallies supporters in Monroe ahead of a campaign event by President Donald Trump on behalf of Edwards' Republican opponent for governor, Eddie Rispone, on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. 

MONROE — Gov. John Bel Edwards this week called the leaders of a New Orleans political group in an effort to get the organization to take down a radio ad comparing his Republican opponent Eddie Rispone to white supremacist David Duke.

Edwards, the Democratic incumbent, said during a political rally in Monroe he called the leaders of the Black Organization for Leadership Development after hearing the ad and was told the spot would be pulled from the radio waves.

In the radio spot, New Orleans City Councilman and BOLD member Jay Banks said, “What is the difference between David Duke, Eddie Rispone and Donald Trump? The only difference is that Eddie Rispone will be governor if you do not stop him.”

In an interview Wednesday, Banks confirmed the governor called, and he said he assured the governor the ad was already being rotated off the air as scheduled and that it is currently off the airwaves. 

David Duke, charges of family racism raised in Louisiana governor's race

The ads set off a firestorm in the race when Rispone addressed them Monday. Rispone’s campaign used the spots to launch its own advertising that hammered Edwards for “playing the race card.” The state Republican Party then sent a message to members that called Edwards’ family “racist” because his ancestors had owned slaves.

“You should know I had absolutely no knowledge, did not approve and did not pay for any of those ads,” Edwards said at his campaign stop. “This is unlike Mr. Rispone. When I heard about them I called the folks that were running the ads and they told me they were going to pull them down.

“When Mr. Rispone spoke ill of me, and my West Point service and my Army experience, he has yet to apologize for that. Not only to me, but to any other veteran. That's the difference between me and him. I absolutely made the effort to contact those people. That ad is down.”

Edwards was referring to comments Rispone made last week that he was “disappointed” in Edwards’ military service and that the governor “hurt the reputation of West Point” by becoming a trial lawyer who will “say or do anything to stay in power.” The governor used the attacks to contrast his military background with Rispone’s lack of service.

Banks stood by the spot comparing Rispone and Trump to Duke and said he has “no ill will” toward Republican voters or Rispone supporters. He questioned why Rispone has not disavowed “hateful rhetoric” from the president, pointing to Trump calling Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” in 2018.

“He can cry foul for someone pointing out something, but he has not once said ‘I don’t agree with those racist views,’” Banks said.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com