Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump’s running mate, refused again on Tuesday to say whether he believes former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke — a vocal Trump supporter — is deplorable. Pence explained that while he and Trump have denounced Duke in the past, he did not want to engage in “name-calling” or to “validate the language that Hillary Clinton used to describe the American people.
But while some in his party, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) have demanded that Pence make it clear that Duke’s racism is deplorable, one prominent Congressional Trump supporter took the same approach as the vice presidential nominee.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) on Tuesday on CNN said he does not agree with what Duke has said and done, but also declined to label him or other racist, sexist, homophobic, and Islamophobic people as deplorable.
“I believe that there are folks out there that have a wide variety of different viewpoints and ideas. I respect those individuals. I vastly disagree with many of their viewpoints, [but] we live in a free and open society where you can freely express those ideas,” Wittman explained. “I absolutely disagree with the behavior, but also want to make sure too that I give respect to each individual, in not providing gross generalities about what they may do or they may say.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted on Tuesday night:
If you won’t say the KKK is deplorable, you have no business running the country. https://t.co/mFut8Qrz9A
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 12, 2016
Trump has actively courted white supremacist voters with his words and hiring. In February, he refused to denounce Duke and white supremacists, falsely claiming he knew nothing about them (he later blamed a bad earpiece). He has attacked Muslim Americans, smeared a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican decent, promoted racist “birther” conspiracies about President Obama, tweeted anti-Semitic memes, retweeted Nazi sympathizers, and elevated “alt-right” website chairman Steven K. Bannon to be CEO of his entire campaign.