The Donald is once again attracting condemnation, this time for his initial refusal to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan and its former leader, David Duke. Asked in an interview on CNN if he accepts the support of the one-time Grand Wizard of the white supremacist group, Donald Trump beat around the bush, saying repeatedly, “I don’t know.”
CNN‘s Jake Tapper asked Trump Sunday on “State of the Union” whether he would disavow the support of Duke and other white supremacists.
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump answered. When pressed further, he explained, “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know – did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
Tapper specified, “The Ku Klux Klan?”
“You may have groups in there that are totally fine,” Trump responded, “and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.” He then claimed he did not know Duke.
Trump Unable to Denounce KKK in CNN Interview
History, however, suggests otherwise. In a 2000 statement reported at the time by The New York Times, Trump cited Duke and others as the reason he decided to back out of the Reform Party’s presidential nomination race.
“The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Pat] Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep,” he had said.
Even the Friday before, Trump acknowledged – and repudiated – the Duke endorsement. At a press conference before the weekend, he answered a related question, “David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?”
Following the Sunday CNN appearance, Trump emphasized his Friday disavowal in a tweet, linking video footage.
The incident represents a rare misstep for Trump, who rarely backs down from a fight. While Trump has often been accused of putting his foot in his mouth, making statements deemed offensive to women, minorities, immigrants and religious groups, he is almost always able to successfully defend his positions in ways which do not damage his political campaign. However, Trump was less savvy in his comeback this time, leading to worldwide media criticism over his “stumble”.
Trump’s opponents were all over his gaffe, with Marco Rubio saying his reticence made him “unelectable”.
“We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the KKK,” he said, adding, “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 what the Ku Klux Klan is. This is serious.”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 28, 2016
America’s first black president cannot and will not be succeeded by a hatemonger who refuses to condemn the KKK.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 28, 2016
Hillary Clinton, according to The Guardian, retweeted Sanders’ statement.
While Trump’s seeming reluctance to condemn the KKK may stem from a desire to give everyone a chance to prove themselves worthy rather than painting everyone with the same brush, as he effectively told Tapper, the wisdom of the Bible advises otherwise. When King Saul showed mercy to the cruel Amalekite king in I Samuel 15, the Sages taught, he became destined to show cruelty to the merciful, as he did in wiping out the priests of Nob five chapters later.