During an appearance with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed ignorance when asked what he was planning to do with an endorsement from infamous White Supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
“Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other White Supremacists in this election?” Tapper asked Trump.
“Well just so you understanding, I don’t know anything about David Duke, or anything about what you’re even talking about with White Supremacy or White Supremacists,” Trump replied. “So I don’t know.”
But Trump hasn’t always claimed ignorance on Duke’s history. In 2000, he wrote a New York Times op-ed explaining why he abandoned the possibility of running for president on the Reform Party ticket. He wrote of an “underside” and “fringe element” of the party, concluding, “I leave the Reform Party to David Duke, Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani. That is not company I wish to keep.”
Video footage of Trump during a 2000 interview with Matt Lauer on the “Today Show” regarding a possible run for the White House on the Reform Party ticket shows Trump firmly stating that “David Duke is a bigot.”
“Well, you got David Duke just joined [the Reform Party],” Trump told Lauer when he was asked about what he thought was the “problem” with the Reform Party. “A bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.”
Even as recently as Friday, Trump seemed to know more about David Duke than he let on with Tapper on Sunday when he asked about his endorsement during a press conference, according to a tweet from Trump, himself.
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
Campaigning in Virginia, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pounced on Trump’s latest position on Duke, shifting to a more serious tone after spending the weekend mocking his rival’s hair and “the worst spray tan in America.”
“We cannot be a party who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan,” Rubio told thousands of supporters gathered in Leesburg, Virginia. “Not only is that wrong, it makes him unelectable. How are we going to grow the party if we nominate someone who doesn’t repudiate the Ku Klux Klan?”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also weighed in on Sunday, calling Trump’s comments “Really sad.”
“You’re better than this,” Cruz wrote. “We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
(H/T: Saving the Republic)
Follow Kathryn Blackhurst (@kablackhurst) on Twitter