Donald Trump initially refused to condemn comments made by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who told listeners of his radio show that voting against the Republican frontrunner would be the equivalent of “treason to your heritage.”
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke,” Trump told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “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 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. “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.”
But on Friday at a press conference announcing he had the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Trump didn’t sound like he didn’t know anything about 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.”
In 2000, Trump, who had flirted with the idea of a third-party run with the Reform Party’s presidential nomination, called Duke “a Klansman” and Pat Buchanan a “neo-Nazi.”
“This is not company I wish to keep,” Trump said in statement that was recently surfaced by BuzzFeed.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called Trump’s refusal to disavow Duke on Sunday “sad.”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said it makes Trump “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.”
Trump subsequently tweeted his disavowment.
As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke- I disavow. pic.twitter.com/OIXFKPUlz2
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
Last week, South Carolina Conservative Action Council, a group dedicated to “defense of the proudly Confederate South,” rallied at the State House in support of Trump’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
His campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo News asking whether it accepts the SCCAC’s endorsement and why such groups are drawn to Trump.
Trump points as he speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Millington, Tenn., on Saturday. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)
According to a Economist/YouGov national poll conducted in January, nearly 20 percent of Trump’s supporters say they do not approve of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln’s executive order that freed the slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War.
The same survey found that a third of Trump’s supporters believe that Japanese-American internment during World War II was a good idea.
And according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted earlier this month, a third of Trump’s supporters in South Carolina say they would “support barring gays and lesbians from entering the country.”