GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence on Tuesday called David Duke “that bad man,” but the Mandeville Republican's campaign says the top of ticket needs the former Ku Klux Klan leader in Louisiana.
“For all the world, I have no idea why this man keeps coming up. Donald Trump and I have denounced David Duke repeatedly,” Pence said during a press conference on Capitol Hill with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, in attendance.
“We have said we do not want his support and we do not want the support of people who think like him,” Pence said, but stopped short when asked of calling Duke “deplorable” for the second day in a row.
Within an hour of Pence’s comments, the Duke Senate campaign renewed its support of Trump's presidential candidacy.
“In order for Trump to carry the state of Louisiana, he needs the Duke vote,” said Michael Lawrence, Duke’s campaign strategist. “Duke’s and Trump’s fates remain linked together.”
Six of the seven major candidates for Louisiana's open U.S. Senate seat are backing their pa…
Duke, one of 24 candidates vying for the U.S. Senate on Nov. 8, came to the center of the presidential campaign again when during a Monday night interview with CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer, Pence refused to call Duke “deplorable.” That was the description Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton used last week in describing some of Trump’s backers.
"There are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who ― David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists ― who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?" Blitzer said during the interview.
"Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don't want his support and we don't want the support of people who think like him," Pence replied.
Later that evening, Duke praised Pence to BuzzFeed News, for not taking Blitzer’s bait. Duke pointed out that he had “a perfect Republican voting record” during his time as a state representative for Metairie from 1989 to 1992.
“It’s ridiculous that they attack me because of my involvement in that nonviolent Klan four decades ago,” he said.
Duke led a faction that attempted to make the Ku Klux Klan look more businesslike. His group was not affiliated directly with the more violent groups, like the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan that was involved in church burnings and the murders of African Americans and civil rights activists.
Pence, at Tuesday’s press conference, returned the focus to Clinton’s deplorable comments saying she “wasn’t talking about that bad man, she was talking about people all across this country who are coming out in record numbers to stand by Donald Trump and to stand with him in his vision to make America great again.”
On his internet radio program in February, Duke said against Trump “is really treason to your heritage … and I support voting for him as a strategic action.”
Trump responded the next day, “I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? Okay, all right, I disavow, OK?”
Update, 1:30 p.m., Feb. 28, 2016After his interview with CNN, Donald Trump tweeted that he d…
Trump was asked repeatedly over the next couple weeks if the candidate included white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups in his disavowal. The issue came up again in July when Duke qualified to run in Louisiana saying he endorsed Trump’s presidential bid. Trump’s campaign released a statement rejecting Duke’s endorsement.
“Regardless of what the Trump campaign states officially,” Lawrence said, “Donald Trump did not disavow David Duke’s support until he was pinned and pushed into a corner. I really do not believe it was a comment that Trump wanted to make. And frankly his statement was glib, at best, regarding the so-called disavowal.”
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