Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, claimed on Sunday that he did not know anything about David Duke — whose endorsement he had disavowed two days earlier — and that he would not criticize groups he didn’t know anything about. This explanation garnered criticism from across the political spectrum and clearly contradicted comments he had made in 2000 against the former KKK Grand Wizard.
On Monday, Trump took to NBC’s Today to attempt to explain his remarks. First, he noted that Jake Tapper’s question on Sunday had included mention of other white supremacist groups backing Trump.
“First of all, he talked about David Duke and other groups. He talked about other groups, okay.”
When reminded that he had also repeatedly claimed that he didn’t know anything about Duke himself, Trump responded, “I’m saying to myself, how many times do I have to continue to disavow people? And the question was asked about David Duke and various groups, and I don’t know who the groups are.”
Told that Tapper had said, “I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, here,” and that Trump had responded, “Honestly, I don’t know David Duke,” Trump blamed the sound equipment.
“I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me and you can hardly hear what he was saying,” the billionaire real estate mogul explained. “I have a lousy earpiece that was provided by them.”
Regardless of the quality of CNN’s earpiece, Trump’s Sunday comments seem to contradict any implication that he misunderstood the question. “Well, just so you understand, I don’t anything about David Duke, OK?” he told Tapper.” I don’t even know anything about what you’re talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on? I know nothing about David Duke.”
After the interview and criticism from his GOP opponents, Trump reaffirmed his Friday denunciation of Duke. “I disavowed David Duke all weekend long on Facebook, on Twitter,” he told co-host Savannah Guthrie Today, “And obviously it’s never enough. It’s ridiculous.”
Inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, he has garnered support not just from Duke but a wide array of other white separatists. Duke has said that any of his supporters not backing Trump is guilty of “treason to your heritage.”
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