Let me begin by noting that I'm not generally a great fan of "will you repudiate X, Y, or Z?" questions from journalists. They sometimes smack of a gotcha mentality, or stray too far down the (sometimes legitimate) path of guilt by association. I'll also point out that in our book End of Discussion, Mary Katharine Ham and I devote a full chapter to identifying and pushing back against the Left's cynical ploy of chalking up opposition to their preferred policies to racism, a tactic which substitutes demagoguery for arguments. Leave it to Donald Trump to vindicate the need for these types of queries, and to validate the Left's ugly premise -- which only helps Democrats sidestep their own racial problems. The answer to this question from CNN's Jake Tapper is, or should be, a no-brainer. Trump recently won the endorsement of prominent white supremacist David Duke, who declared the act of voting against Trump 'treasonous' to white people's heritage. On Sunday's State of the Union, Tapper asked Trump if he'd disavow Duke's support, and that of the Ku Klux Klan. The billionaire ducked, dodged and deflected (see update below for his new explanation). Disgusting:
TAPPER: ...I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?
TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I'd 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.
TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?
TRUMP: There are groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I'll let you know.
TAPPER: OK, I mean I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but...
TRUMP: I don't know anything -- honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I've ever met him, I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him, and I just don't know anything about him.
Presented with multiple opportunities to clearly separate himself from David Duke and the KKK, Trump demurred, pretending that he didn't know enough to write them off. His final claim, that he "just [doesn't] know anything about" Duke is a total lie. How so? First off, Trump published a damage control tweet after the interview, featuring video of himself issuing an annoyed, perfunctory disavowal of David Duke...on Friday:
As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke- I disavow. pic.twitter.com/OIXFKPUlz2— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
So he knew who Duke was on Friday at a press conference, then didn't know anything about him on Sunday? His own self-defense exposes and disproves the feigned ignorance he displayed on CNN. Embarrassing. Also, watch Marco Rubio ripping into Trump's evasions (Ted Cruz tweeted a condemnation):
"He said he doesn't know who David Duke is. But the fact is that in the early 1990s, or at some point ten or 15 years ago when Donald Trump was thinking about running for president in the Reform Party, one of the reasons why he said he wasn't going to run is because David Duke is part of the Reform Party. So he knows exactly who David Duke is."
Rubio is correct. Trump was well aware of David Duke's existence and abhorrent views when he condemned him in a 2000 New York Times op/ed:
Trump also rejected Duke in August. Either the aging Trump is losing control of his faculties, or he's employing lies to justify playing footsie with open racists because he knows they're an important element of his voting base. He does, after all, have a long track record of retweeting white supremacists. Trump also defended himself for approvingly tweeting a quote from fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on Meet the Press, and will probably be asked about his quote praising the Chinese government for its brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. The communist regime "almost blew it," Trump said before calling the violent repression an example of "the power of strength." I'll leave you with yet another ham-handed racial dogwhistle from Trump as he plays defense over his Trump University fraud scandal -- over which he's likely to be dragged into court in the thick of the general election. Not subtle:
My God.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 27, 2016
This is Trump implying that the judge in the Trump U. case is against him because the judge is Hispanic. pic.twitter.com/lpjJJkOUqp
Rubio is spot on when he says, "not only is [Trump's KKK dodge] 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 who the Ku Klux Klan is." Yep. Democrats cannot wait to run against Donald Trump. They are licking their chops to absolutely destroy him by calling him a racist (he'd handing them plenty of ammo) and a predatory scam artist. Remember, his general election polling fundamentals are already extremely weak. And then there's this:
In RCP track, Trump has NEVER led Clinton in what has been a tough 8 months for her & pretty easy 8 months for him >https://t.co/j7eA4KmnvG— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) February 27, 2016
Republican voters go to the polls in more than a dozen states tomorrow.
UPDATE - Trump is trying to blame this on a "lousy earpiece," but he didn't seem to be having any trouble hearing Tapper's questions yesterday. An IFB issue does not explain why he'd falsely claim to not know anything about David Duke. And if you watch the clip, you'll notice that he again whiffs on the KKK. Democrats will have a field day with this guy.