The always unpredictable real estate mogul and presidential hopeful Donald Trump managed to find his way onto the front page again recently. Trump received an endorsement this past week from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, a white supremacist from Louisiana that claimed it would be an act of “treason to your race” if white people did not vote for Trump. When asked about this by CNN’s Jake Tapper on his show State of the Union, Trump repeatedly denied any knowledge of Duke, nor any knowledge of white supremacy at all. This endorsement came at a pivotal time for Trump who entered the week of “Super Tuesday,” where 11 states held their party primaries, with a commanding lead in the polls. When asked why he did not disavow Duke’s endorsement, he claimed that he had a “bad earpiece” and could not hear the question Tapper had asked him, and then swiftly changed the subject.
Coming off of a very heated GOP debate, other potential party nominees Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took advantage of Trump’s gaffe. Rubio slammed trump by dubbing him “unelectable” while at a rally in Virginia. Cruz used this opportunity to re-center focus on Trump’s reluctance to release his tax info amid an audit by the IRS, and went on to claim that he was attached to the mafia and that all of his money was not legitimately made. Shortly after Trump made these comments, reports surfaced that Trump did in fact know duke, dating back to 2000. Trump disassociated himself with Duke while inquiring about a presidential run under the Reform Party. “The reform party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.” Said trump as reported by the New York Times in 2000. After coming under fire by many major media outlets, Trump did in fact finally disavow Mr. Dukes endorsement, albeit reluctantly. “David Duke endorsed me? OK? I disavow it. OK,” said an agitated Trump. During the interview he responded to Tapper by saying that he would need a list of groups that endorsed him and before disavowing them “unfairly,” he said, he must do more research on them.
In addition to Rubio’s remarks, he stated at a rally that despite Trumps supposed technical difficulties with his earpiece, that the word Klu Klux Klan should be one that is immediately recognizable and hate groups should unquestionably be condemned. On the other side of party lines, Bernie Sanders took to twitter to comment by saying “Americas first black president cannot and will not be succeeded by a hatemonger who refuses to condemn the KKK.” Also, Hillary Clinton in her efforts to appear more and more like a general election candidate, blasted Trump and focused her negative campaigning towards the Trump campaign, the projected winner of the republican party, as opposed to Democratic Party foe Bernie Sanders.
Throughout Trump’s campaign, there have been traces of white supremacy groups that have showed their allegiance. In January, a white Super Pac put out a robo-call during the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucus that stated, “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.” These calls came after Trump made the comment earlier on the trail that if elected president, he would either not allow or track all Muslims in the country.
As the primary season continues to heat up, endorsements are beginning to roll in and Trump has earned one from New Jersey Governor and former party rival, Chris Christie. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Maine Governor Paul LePage also gave him their loyalty. All of these men have been in the news in the past for racial or anti-immigrant gaffes as well.
Sessions squandered his chance of being federal judge appointee during the Reagan administration for calling an assistant U.S. Attorney “boy” and telling him that he should “watch the way he talks to white people.” Kobach has been a proposer of stern anti-immigration laws, and LePage was most recently in the news for his comments during a press conference, in which he condemned black drug dealers from Connecticut and New York, that he gave the surnames “D-Money, Smoothie, and Shifty,” from coming into Maine to sell drugs and impregnate white women. The latter he also called “an entirely different problem in itself that must be handled later on.” There seems to be a common denominator in the support that Donald Trump has among elected officials and interest groups. The serious question now becomes, with such a pivotal day of voting approaching, will all of this bad press hurt his campaign? With the majority of polled conservative voters in the Bible belt continuing to give their unwavering support to the campaign, it seems as though it will not affect him very much at all. The Washington Post is predicting that Trump will win Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee which would give him a very comfortable lead over his party counterparts. With a significant amount of wins this Super Tuesday, Donald Trump could be strolling his way right to the Republican National Convention as the Republican Candidate for President of the United States.
-Sean Ryan ’18, Junior Politics/Opinions Editor