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Pastor Mark Burns and Donald Trump (Photos: Yahoo News)
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Pastor Mark Burns is planning to have a talk with Donald Trump about the Ku Klux Klan on Sunday.
Burns is one of a number of black pastors who support Trump’s presidential campaign and met with him last December. Since then, Burns has been traveling the country and speaking at Trump’s rallies. Yahoo News called him on Sunday to ask about Trump’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper in which Trump declined to condemn the KKK and former KKK grand wizard David Duke. Burns, who was at an airport flying between Trump campaign events in Tennessee and Alabama, said he had a “brief conversation” with Trump about the issue on Saturday night and planned to discuss it further at a meeting Sunday.
“We do have a meeting today about that very thing. … We’re leaving one rally and flying to … Huntsville,” Burns said. “We had a brief conversation last night prior to this interview. … We were going to discuss some things that need to be spoken so that he continues to be a unifier and be a president for all the people.”
Burns said he “absolutely” will be advising Trump to explicitly denounce the KKK.
“That’s one of the reasons why I am here, so I can help be that ear for Mr. Trump to make sure, you know, that he is coming across, because obviously … he wants everybody’s vote. Obviously, he wants to win. We want to win,” Burns said. “We want him to become the next president of the United States. But at the same time, he is not going to endorse any hate group, any hate group. And so, if that means coming out and saying, … ‘I don’t stand behind what the KKK stands for or what David Duke stands for,’ then that is what he’s going to do and say. That’s our advice.”
In a CNN interview on Sunday morning, Tapper asked Trump about comments Duke made on his radio show in which he told listeners that voting against Trump would be “treason to your heritage.”
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke,” Trump said. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I mean, I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? You know, I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists. And so when you’re asking me a question I’m supposed to be talking about people I know nothing about.”
Tapper pressed Trump to “just say unequivocally that you condemn them and you don’t want their support.”
“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 that I know nothing about. I’d have to look.” Trump said. “If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”
Tapper expressed surprise that Trump professed to be unaware of the KKK, one of America’s best known white supremacist groups, and one Trump has previously discussed. In 2000, for example, Trump called Duke “a bigot, a racist.”
Hours after the CNN interview, Trump tweeted his disavowmentof Duke, noting he was asked to do so at a Friday press conference.
As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke- I disavow. pic.twitter.com/OIXFKPUlz2
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
In his conversation with Yahoo News, Burns said it was “important” to realize Trump was saying he “didn’t know who David Duke was” and not expressing support for him.
“Obviously, he couldn’t give an educated answer on who David Duke is in the first place, so you know, obviously we’re standing by what he said. But again, Donald Trump, none of the Trump campaign endorses anyone that obviously is designed to create a divisiveness,” Burns said, adding, “Mr. Trump is a unifier, and that’s one of the things he’s running on, to unify us. So, obviously David Duke represents a group of people that are Americans, and they have the right to believe what they want to believe, but they’re a divisive group.”
Yahoo News asked Burns about Trump’s comments on Duke over the years, which show an apparent familiarity with both his affiliations and his beliefs.
“I’m not going to begin to speak for Mr. Trump as to what he meant or what he said. I mean, he obviously said he wasn’t familiar with David Duke. And he said, again, ‘I really don’t know who you’re speaking of, so to really ask if I’m going to accept an endorsement or reject an endorsement, I really got to know who they are.’ So that’s what he said, and that’s what he meant,” Burns said.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has received support from white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Confederate groups. His campaign has not disavowed these groups. On Feb. 20, Yahoo News reported on a Confederate group in South Carolina that endorsed Trump. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment asking whether they accepted the endorsement and why they believe white supremacist groups appear drawn to Trump.