On Sunday, Donald Trump refused to disavow the support of David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader, when asked to do so by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Here’s the transcript:
Tapper: I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage. Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?
Trump: Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, ok? I don't know what you're even talking about with 'white supremacy' or 'white supremacist.' So, I don't know. I mean, I don't know, did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that i know nothing about.
Tapper: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?
Trump: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group up that I know nothing about. I'd have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow them if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair...
Tapper: The Ku Klux Klan?
Trump: So give me a list of the groups and I'll let you know.
Tapper: I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here.
Trump: Honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I've ever met him, I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him, and I just don't know anything about him.
Initially, in watching the interview, I simply assumed that Trump was actually ignorant of Duke. Tapper’s question is a gotcha – when is the last time Tapper or anyone else asked Barack Obama about his support from the Communist Party or Louis Farrakhan? And Trump is a boorish ignoramus.
So I tweeted that Trump’s answers here didn’t seem like calculated manipulation to avoid smacking the KKK and Duke; instead, they seemed like stupidity.
Within minutes, I reversed myself.
That’s because there is a bevy of evidence that Trump absolutely knows who David Duke is.
In fact, on Friday, he outright disavowed Duke’s support:
And he did the same thing back in August 2015 when asked about it by Bloomberg (fast forward to 5:00 mark):
And going all the way back to 2000, he cited David Duke’s involvement in the Reform Party as his rationale for leaving it: “So the Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.”
But between Friday and Sunday, Trump suddenly got rather wishy-washy about the company he chooses to keep.
Why? There are only two possibilities.
The first: he actually wants to avoid alienating racists. That’s certainly plausible given the number of racist, anti-Semitic trolls Trump generates on Twitter, for example – anyone who has ever written anything opposing Trump has been spammed by #altright responses throwing around racial slurs. That doesn’t mean that everyone who supports Trump is a racist – far from it. But it would mean that Trump is quite comfortable in the company of such racists.
Then there’s the second possibility: that Trump initially understood that Duke and the KKK ought to be rejected, but his pathetic love of praise overwhelmed him. After all, this is the guy who praised dictatorial warmonger Vladimir Putin after Putin praised him.
Either way, Trump is disgraceful. And he should absolutely be ripped to shreds over it. There is no excuse for embracing racism, whether out of political cynicism or simple ego.