CHICAGO (AP) — After fumbling the answer to a question about whether a former Ku Klux Klan leader is a racist, the campaign of Republican Bruce Rauner on Tuesday clarified the governor's opinion of David Duke.
During a radio interview on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Rauner was asked if President Donald Trump was racist following reports he used vulgar language to refer to African nations. Trump allegedly also questioned why America would want to accept more immigrants from Haiti. Rauner repeatedly declined to directly answer, saying "that language has no place in our political conversation."
When WVON-AM host Charles Thomas on Monday asked if Duke is a racist, Rauner would only respond "we have racism in our society."
"We have got to come together to change our system," Rauner said.
On Tuesday, Rauner campaign spokesman Justin Giorgio sought to clarify those comments. In a statement, he said Rauner "believes that David Duke is a racist."
Democrats were quick to seize on what they characterized as Rauner's attempt to "mince words."
"Instead of having a spine and standing up for what's right, Rauner dodges even the most basic of questions to avoid giving Illinoisans the answers they deserve," said Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Democratic governor hopeful J.B. Pritzker.
Also on Tuesday, Duke spoke about Rauner's initial failure to call him a racist.
"Probably at some point, he's heard about David Duke, and deep down in his soul, something's happened inside of him and he knows that I am not really a racist in the sense that I want to oppress and oppose other people," Duke told the Chicago Tribune.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat running for attorney general, cited King when he noted Rauner's failure to call Duke a racist.
"Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter and Bruce Rauner's inability to clearly state that David Duke is a racist is pretty damning," said Raoul, the son of Haitian immigrants.