Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough on Wednesday accused the host of the U.S. Senate debate of manipulating poll results to ensure white supremacist David Duke would qualify to increase TV ratings. 

"Pretty clear polling rigged as (Donald) Trump would say for ratings," Kimbrough said in a tweet. "Any protests become part of reality show masquerading as news #WakeUp".

The debate, featuring six candidates, will be held at Dillard University, a historically black university. In an interview Kimbrough softened his stance about the poll being "rigged," but he maintained "it's a valid question to ask, when the latest poll comes out and (Duke is) at 2 percent," he said referencing a recent poll by the University of New Orleans. 

The main criteria for the 7 p.m. debate – the second and last televised debate before the general election – was for candidates to come in at 5 percent or higher in a poll commissioned by Raycom Media, the debate sponsor. 

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc., had Duke at the 5.1 percent. The majority of recent polls have placed Duke's support at 3 percent or lower, with the exception of an August poll by conservative blog The Hayride/Remington where Duke polled at 6 percent.

"Either we're extremely lucky to get that 5 percent or there has been some manipulation," Kimbrough said. 

In a news release, Raycom Media stood by its polling. 

“Mason-Dixon is one of the most reputable polling firms available” said Raycom Spokesperson Vicki Zimmerman. “They have a solid reputation and have been providing services to news organizations like ours for over 30 years. “

The only other televised debate, by the Center for a Better Louisiana and Louisiana Public Broadcasting, had a 5 percent polling threshold in addition to a required minimum of raising at least $1 million. Duke was excluded from that debate. 

Ahead of the debate, Kimbrough said that Duke's attendance on campus would be a circus that distracted from substantive issues. 

"It's perfect made for TV," Kimbrough said. "'Former klansman at historically black college.' That's the headline. And it's not fair to Dillard."

Duke, the most well-known candidate in the U.S. Senate race, was the grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from 1974-80. He has said he left the group because he was fed up with some Klan branches’ continued violent outbursts against minorities, though his departure also came after he reportedly offered to sell his membership rolls to another Klan leader for thousands of dollars.

He served a single term in the Louisiana House in 1989.

In addition to Duke, R-Mandeville; the other candidates at the debate will be: State Treasurer John Kennedy, R-Madisonville; U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden; Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Bossier Parish; and attorney Caroline Fayard, D-New Orleans.

Mike Henderson, director of the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU, said that it was an arbitrary decision to allow Duke into the debate based on a single poll where he met the threshold by one-tenth of a percentage point. He stressed that the margin of error was 4 percentage points, which means it's unclear whether Duke was truly above or below the 5 percent mark.

"A statistician would look at this and say it doesn't make any sense, it's not any different from flipping a coin and saying, are we letting Duke in or not?" he said.

Henderson also noted that every pollster makes decisions, like how to weight data and what counts as a "likely voter," that can shift results by a couple percentage points. 

"That tenth of a percent is a consequence of random variability, plus decisions that the pollster made," Henderson said, while adding that he doesn't necessarily believe it was rigged or inaccurate. 

Kimbrough said he thought it would have made more sense to take an average of recent poll results, or to include other criteria like CABL's debate. He noted that with six candidates and only an hour-long debate, the candidates would not have adequate time to address real issues facing the state and country. 

"This person slides in at the end, and he doesn't have a chance of winning, he's a complete distraction," Kimbrough said. "We're not going to get any substance because of this side show candidate." 

The debate will be aired live without commercial interruption on WAFB-TV, KPLC-TV, KSLA-TV in Shreveport and C-SPAN. It will also be live streamed on WAFB.com, Fox8live.com, KPLCTV.com and KSLA.com.

The New Orleans Raycom affiliate WVUE will not air the broadcast because of coverage of the World Series Game 7. It will instead be aired on Bounce TV and on WYES.

The general election is Nov. 8.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.