In February 2016, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, then-candidate Donald Trump was asked about receiving former KKK leader David Duke’s endorsement. His reply: “I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy and white supremacists.”
Trump’s answer was surprising, given that in 2000, he had refused the Reform Party nomination for president, precisely because the party included Duke. “David Duke just joined—a bigot, a racist, a problem,” Trump said then. “I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.” Eventually, Trump did condemn Duke, but the impression was left, fair or not, that he was playing footsie with white racists.
After yesterday’s killing of a counter-protester at a “Unite the Right” white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, and the wounding of many more, President Trump needs to address white nationalism without any hemming and hawing for a middle ground. While some anti-fascist (antifa) counter-protesters came looking for a brawl, as did some white nationalists, the president has not been shy in the past about condemning the Left’s “professional protesters.” It’s time for him to turn his rhetorical fire on the racist-armband crowd that claims to speak in his name. (Similar disavowals would be welcome on the Left, too, when antifa, Black Lives Matter, or other groups or individuals engage in violence.)
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