Trump speaks at a rally in Madison, Ala., on Sunday. (Photo: John Bazemore/AP)
Donald Trump is blaming “a very bad earpiece” for his refusal to disavow former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
“I could hardly hear what he was saying,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show Monday.
The Republican frontrunner said he thought he was being asked to disavow “various groups” and insisted he couldn’t hear Tapper’s clarification that he was talking about Duke and the KKK.
“I have no problem disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are,” Trump said on “Today.” “It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn’t be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are.”
But during his interview with Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Trump appeared to hear Tapper’s references to both Duke and white supremacist groups just fine.
“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 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.”
The Anti-Defamation League had called on the real estate mogul to disavow the support from Duke and other white supremacist groups. But Trump refused to repudiate them.
“I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about,” Trump said Sunday. “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group 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 if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”
“I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here,” Tapper said.
“Honestly, I don’t know David Duke,” Trump replied. “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.”
At Friday’s press conference announcing he had the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Trump seemed to be keenly aware of David Duke.
“I didn’t even know he endorsed me,” Trump said when he was asked about Duke’s public support. “David Duke endorsed me? OK. I disavow, OK?”
“Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on his radio show Thursday. “I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump, in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him. But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”
On Sunday, Trump’s GOP rivals pounced.
“Really sad,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Trump’s refusal to disavow Duke makes him “unelectable.”
“We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan,” Rubio said at a rally in Virginia Sunday. “Not only is that wrong, it makes him unelectable. How are we going to grow our party with a nominee that refuses to condemn the Ku Klux Klan? Don’t tell me he doesn’t know who the Ku Klux Klan is. This is serious.”
“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough blasted Trump in a Washington Post editorial.
“They weren’t hard questions to answer,” the MSNBC host wrote. “A simple ‘yes’ would have worked. But on Sunday, Donald Trump swatted away the easy answers and instead feigned ignorance about the KKK and its most infamous Grand Wizard. The Republican frontrunner’s failure to provide what should have been a simple answer has raised even more disturbing questions about the man who is on course to lock down the GOP’s nomination for president.”
Why would the same man who claims to have “the world’s greatest memory” say “I don’t know anything about David Duke” just two days after he condemned the former Klansman in a nationally televised press conference? And with that amazing memory, how could Donald Trump have forgotten that he himself refused to run for president as a Reform Party nominee in 2000 because “Klansman” David Duke was a member of that same party? … Sunday’s distressing performance is just the latest in a string of incidents that suggest to critics that Donald Trump is using bigotry to fuel his controversial campaign.