Election 2020

Candidates Pile on Trump for KKK Remarks, While CPAC Organizer Backs Him

Donald Trump chats with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie following a rally at Millington Regional Airport in Millington, Tenn., on Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Opponents of Donald Trump piled on the GOP frontrunner for his refusal to condemn David Duke and the KKK on CNN this morning, while the group behind this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference gave an assist to the billionaire businessman.

The onetime grand wizard of Louisiana’s Ku Klux Klan — who served in Louisiana’s legislature and mounted unsuccessful campaigns for other offices including Congress and the governor’s mansion — lauded Trump on his radio show Wednesday and urged listeners to volunteer for the campaign “to meet people there who have the same kind of mindset.”

Voting for Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) or Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and “voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said. “Now, 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…. Get active. Join this campaign.”

This morning on CNN, host Jake Tapper asked, “Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?”

“Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know,” Trump replied. “…You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would 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.”

“The Ku Klux Klan?” Tapper asked.

“But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know,” Trump said.

“I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here,” Tapper said.

“I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him,” Trump added, though in 2000 when he declined to seek the Reform Party’s nomination he said he’d leave the party “to David Duke, Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani. That is not company I wish to keep.”

After his remarks aired Sunday, Cruz tweeted: “Really sad. you’re better than this. We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”

Rubio responded to Trump’s remarks during a rally in Loudoun County, Va. “He knows exactly who David Duke is,” Rubio said, citing Trump’s flirtation with a Reform Party run. “He was asked this morning two times,’Will you repudiate and condemn the Ku Klux Klan?’ and he refused to do that as well. We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.”

“By the way, not only is that wrong, it makes him unelectable,” Rubio added. “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.”

Rubio endorser former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said in a statement that “as someone of the Jewish faith, which has been a target of KKK hate and violence, I am sickened by Donald Trump’s failure to condemn the KKK and disavow their support of his campaign.”

“I recognize that many Republicans stood with Trump even after he insulted a war hero, mocked the disabled, degraded women and defamed a former Republican president,” Coleman continued. “But Trump’s failure to separate himself from David Duke and the KKK crosses the line of any standard of decency. Republicans need to speak out and make it clear that Trump’s values and KKK values are not Republican values.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), another Rubio surrogate, said “any candidate who cannot immediately condemn a hate group like the KKK does not represent the Republican Party, and will not unite it.””

“If Donald Trump can’t take a stand against the KKK, we cannot trust him to stand up for America against Putin, Iran or ISIS,” Scott added.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted: “Hate groups have no place in America. We are stronger together. End of story.” Ben Carson did not issue a statement or tweet on the matter.

Hillary Clinton retweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) Twitter statement: “America’s first black president cannot and will not be succeeded by a hatemonger who refuses to condemn the KKK.”

The American Conservative Union, which is hosting the CPAC conference outside Washington where Trump will speak Saturday morning, tweeted that “all candidates” vying for the Republican Party nomination condemn the Klan.

“ACU condemns the KKK and David Duke and believes as Reagan did, that their racial hated is un-American. All GOP pres candidates agree,” the group tweeted.

ACU chairman Matt Schlapp was going back and forth with non-fans of Trump and his Sunday comments, arguing that keeping Clinton out of the White House was the most important thing.