Trump and the KKK

Via NPR: Trump Won’t Condemn KKK, Says He ‘Knows Nothing About White Supremacists’

The following is from a Trump appearance on CNN:

Trump: I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. … If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow them if I thought there was something wrong.

Tapper: The Ku Klux Klan?

Trump: 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’ll let you know.

Tapper: I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here.

Trump: Honestly, I don’t know David Duke.

On the one hand, this is Trump being Trump–cleverly dodging the question in a way that will allow his devotees to glide over what is actually being said.

On the other, this is Trump being Trump–saying something that utterly disgusts those who understand what he is doing.

The bottom line is this, he either a) knows full well what he is doing by refusing to condemn overtly racist organizations, or b) he is actually ignorant of the groups in question.  I am guessing the answer is “a” but neither possibility is comforting considering the job to which Trump aspires.

(I do think he doesn’t personally know David Duke, but then again that isn’t what is being asked, now is it?).

What is even more profoundly concerning is that this type of information will have no effect not only on a mass of voters, but it will it not stop allegedly “serious” politicians and pundits from endorsing him (I am looking at you, Chris Christie).

Note:  added bonus, the story also notes Trump’s Tweet of a Mussolini quote.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James Joyner says:

    Given Trump’s commanding lead, you’d think he’d at least start making easy nods in the direction of sanity. But instead he’s doubling down on the crazy.

  2. MBunge says:

    The KKK/Duke stuff really isn’t excusable, even if it’s just Trump playing a dominance game of “I’m not going to do what you want me to do.”

    The Mussolini quote, though, is just stupid. Do people have to denounce vegetarianism because Hilter was one?


  3. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: Unless it’s not an act for the sake of gaining support.

    We must begin considering the very real possibility he actually means what he’s been saying. Everyone seems to be whistling past the graveyard by saying “it’s just bluster to build support” or “he’s an exaggerator, that’s the way he is, he doesn’t really mean all that crazy stuff.”

    But what if that’s wrong and he does? What if this isn’t a carefully-crafted campaign strategy, with the eventual intention of moderating once the nomination is secured?

    I mean, I can’t imagine any American of Trump’s age who wouldn’t know exactly who the KKK are and what they stand for. Yet here he is with these facile statements that enable him to feign ignorance while providing white supremacists with a wink-and-a-nod.

  4. @MBunge:

    The Mussolini quote, though, is just stupid.

    If you are a candidate being accused of fascist tendencies and you share quotes from Mussolini that sends a message.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    Trump knew who Duke was in 2000:

    “Mr. Trump painted a fairly dark picture of the Reform Party in his statement, noting the role of Mr. Buchanan, along with the roles of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Lenora Fulani, the former standard-bearer of the New Alliance Party and an advocate of Marxist-Leninist politics. “The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani,” he said in his statement. “This is not company I wish to keep.””

  6. @Moosebreath: Indeed. But he didn’t say he didn’t know who Duke is. He said “I don’t know David Duke” meaning that he doesn’t personally know him. That aren’t friends, after all.

    In other words: he is very precise in his language, despite what seems like a haphazard approach.

  7. Castanea says:

    I would have preferred it if he kept that in his belt until he was the nominee. He represents the real GOP and should be facing Clinton.

  8. James Pearce says:


    The KKK/Duke stuff really isn’t excusable, even if it’s just Trump playing a dominance game of “I’m not going to do what you want me to do.”

    The dominance game. Great way of putting it.

    Sad, though, that by going with such an obvious gotcha-type question, Tapper didn’t realize he was playing a losing round of “The Dominance Game.”

    He didn’t just want Trump to “disavow” the David Duke endorsement, he wanted Trump to do it on his show. And Trump, being a better “Dominance Game” player, just waited until later. So much for the gotcha.

    Trump: 1, Tapper: 0.

  9. Hal_10000 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Indeed.I sometimes wonder if Trump started this whole thing as a bit of fun and now that he’s the frontrunner, he’s trying to say more and more outrageous stuff to see just how far he can go (answer: very far).

    Either that or, as Phil Plait suggested, this is where Andy Kaufman has been for the last 30 years.

  10. Mikey says:


    Either that or, as Phil Plait suggested, this is where Andy Kaufman has been for the last 30 years.

    I had to go looking for that… Haha!

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “In other words: he is very precise in his language, despite what seems like a haphazard approach.”

    So, he finds an out in implausible deniability. Gotcha.

  12. @Moosebreath: I am not defending him. But I am noting that despite his buffoonery, he is often very specific in his choice of words.

  13. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Joyner:

    Funny how the more explicitly racist Donald Trump becomes, his support among Republicans gets stronger and stronger….

  14. RGardner says:

    For minor accuracy, the supposed Mussolini quote/retweet came from Gawker and isn’t purely Mussolini; it is similar to many other quotes predating il Duce, “better to live one single day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep.” Not much different in concept from NH’s “Live Free or Die.” There are many reasons to dislike Trump but this is weak.

  15. Gustopher says:

    Maybe he thinks it’s a different organization. 3 Ks, 4 Hs, who can tell the difference?

  16. @Moosebreath: @Steven L. Taylor: I have seen more of the interchange and he flatly denying knowing anything about Duke, so yes: brazen lies.

  17. @RGardner: I agree it is minor (and, indeed, insignificant in the grand scheme of things). Nonetheless, as I noted, when one is being accused of fascist tendencies, Tweeting out Mussolini (or Mussolini-esque) is nuts.

  18. MBungte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: If you are a candidate being accused of fascist tendencies and you share quotes from Mussolini that sends a message.

    I believe the guy who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building quoted the poem “Invictus” before he was executed. Does that mean anyone who like or ever mentions it again has to publicly disavow McVeigh?

    If Trump had tagged it with Mussolini’s name, that’s one thing. But it seems entirely likely that Trump has no idea who said it when he retweeted it. And the sentiment expressed is something plenty of non-racists would entirely agree with.


  19. @MBungte: you miss the point.

    1. Let me say again: it is not that big of a deal, and we and we have already talked about it more than it is worth (it was, after all, a passing addendum to an already short post.

    2. Symbolism matters in politics. If Bernie were Tweeting out Karl Marx quotes it would be a similar issue since his opponents accuse him of being a communist and he says he isn’t.

    This is not about guilt by association (or, really, even guilt).

  20. Moosebreath says:

    And Trump goes even further into the realm of implausible deniability:

    “Donald Trump said Monday he didn’t disavow the endorsement of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a CNN interview because of a “lousy earpiece” — an answer that doesn’t make much sense.”


    I did not mean to imply that your comment was defending Trump. I was referring to the implausibility of Trump’s denial on its face.

  21. Facebones says:

    I am convinced that Trump never intended things to get this far. He wanted some ego boosting press over the summer, and once he’d booked some speaking gigs and book tours he’d bow out and let Jeb! or Walker fight it out.

    But that fabled “deep bench” of the GOP never materialized, and the racist base just loves it when Trump talks about building a wall or banning all Muslims. So he tried a different tact. He committed conservative heresy and said George W failed to keep us safe and that we can’t let people die in the streets due to lack of health insurance. Didn’t work! He still won SC by a landslide.

    He’s in too deep now and his massive ego won’t just let him stop running. So now he’s doubling down on the racism to drive away any independent or Democrat who might be considering voting for him just in case he makes it to the general election. It’s really all I can think of.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @Facebones: Or trying to figure out what he can say that will be really over the top and discovering that there’s….nothing.

    Once you end up being The Great White Hope to a populace desperate for a leader, yeah, they’ll follow you everywhere….

    …even to Guyana and vats of Koolaid laced with strychnine.