The Cable

The Ku Klux Klan is Back, Courtesy of Donald Trump

Donald Trump has managed to drag the Klu Klux Klan into the 2016 presidential race.

GettyImages-481258490

David Duke, a white nationalist and former Klu Klux Klan grand wizard, hadn’t been relevant in national presidential politics since he lost his bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1992. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has changed that, and in a hurry.

Last week, Duke told an audience it would be a “treason to your heritage” if white Americans did not vote for Trump. On Monday, Trump tried to belatedly distance himself from Duke, but it was too late to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from getting a sudden burst of relevance in the increasingly-bizarre 2016 race.

“I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today Show” Monday as he tried to explain why he hadn’t disavowed when repeatedly pressed about the incident Sunday. “And you can hardly hear what [CNN anchor Jake Tapper] was saying.”

Trump added that has “no problem with disavowing groups but I’d at least like to know who they are.”

The comments won’t tamp down the anger and confusion over Trump’s remarks Sunday, when he pretended not to know Duke even though there is clear evidence — including comments from Trump 2000 that explicitly referenced the KKK leader — that the GOP frontrunner is well-aware of who Duke is and what he represents.

“I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said on CNN Sunday. “Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

His rivals immediately pounced on Trump, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) saying his refusal to disavow Duke makes the billionaire businessman “unelectable.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ohio Governor John Kasich also slammed the real estate mogul

On Monday, perhaps sensing that refusing to distance himself from someone who has called for separate white and black nations is a bad play politically, Trump blamed Sunday’s slip-up on the “lousy earpiece that is provided” by CNN’s faulty technology.

Trump’s missteps come two days after clashes between KKK members and protesters in California Saturday left three people suffering from stab wounds. This incident, combined with Trump’s comments, has made the neo-Nazi group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates has just 3,000 members, a talking point on the 2016 presidential campaign.

The GOP frontrunner has consistently faced charges that he is explicitly tailoring his message to — and winning support from — some groups that share racist, anti-Semitic, or far-right views. In South Carolina, a state which Trump handily won, 70 percent of those who back the 2016 GOP presidential frontrunner believe the Confederate flag should still be flying over South Carolina’s statehouse. About four in 10 Donald Trump supporters there wish the South had won the Civil War.

Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola