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The Fact Checker: The Truth Behind the Rhetoric

Donald Trump and David Duke: For the record

Glenn Kessler

By Glenn Kessler

Published March 2, 2016

Donald Trump and David Duke: For the record
 
CNN's Jake Tapper (L.) grilled The Donald.

Here is a full chronology of Donald Trump's statements on white supremacist David Duke.

Unlike most other top Republican officials, Trump generally does not couple his statements about Duke with a firm condemnation of Duke's views. Instead, his answers are often reactive, such as "I would do that [repudiate Duke], if it made you feel better."

1991

CNN's Larry King: "Did the David Duke thing bother you? Fifty-five percent of the whites in Louisiana voted for him."

Trump: "I hate seeing what it represents, but I guess it just shows there's a lot of hostility in this country. There's a tremendous amount of hostility in the United States."

King: "Anger?"

Trump: "It's anger. I mean, that's an anger vote. People are angry about what's happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they're really in deep trouble. When you talk about the East Coast, it's not the East Coast. It's the East Coast, the middle coast, the West Coast. . ."

-exchange on Larry King Live, shortly after Duke lost a race for governor of Louisiana, Nov. 19, 1991

2000

"The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Patrick] Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep."

-Trump, in a statement saying he will not accept the Reform Party nomination for president, Feb. 13, 2000

2015

Bloomberg's John Heilemann: "How do you feel about the David Duke quasi-endorsement?"

Trump: "I don't need his endorsement; I certainly wouldn't want his endorsement. I don't need anyone's endorsement."

Heilemann: "Would you repudiate David Duke?"

Trump: "Sure, I would do that, if it made you feel better. I don't know anything about him. Somebody told me yesterday, whoever he is, he did endorse me. Actually I don't think it was an endorsement. He said I was absolutely the best of all of the candidates."

-exchange during an interview on Bloomberg Politics, Aug. 26, 2015

2016

"Voting for these people [Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz], voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage. 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. I hope he does everything we hope he will do."

-David Duke, on his radio program, Feb. 25, 2016

Question: "How do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?"

Trump: "I didn't even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? OK, alright. I disavow, OK?"

-Trump, in response to a question at a news conference, Feb. 26

CNN's Jake Tapper: "I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be 'treason to your heritage.' Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?"

Trump: "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. I don't know, did he endorse me or what's going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about."

Tapper: "But 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 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."

Tapper: "The Ku Klux Klan?"

Trump: "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."

Tapper: "OK. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but. . ."

Trump: "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."

Tapper: "All right."

-exchange on CNN's "State of the Union," Feb. 28

Trump: "I'm sitting in a house in Florida, with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was 'various groups.' And I don't mind disavowing anybody and I disavowed David Duke. And I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference. . .I have no problem disavowing groups, but I'd at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn't be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke."

-Interview with NBC's "Today Show," Feb. 29


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An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review

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