Over the weekend, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump refused to condemn endorsements from David Duke, a prominent white supremacist and former KKK leader. Duke has told his radio audience that voting against Trump would be “treason to your heritage.” Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Trump refused four times to disavow Duke’s support or the support of other white supremacists. “A lot of the people that come to hear him, this whole idea of ‘make America great,’ that’s all about making America great for a small group of people, generally white males,” says Kevin Alexander Gray, a civil rights activist and community organizer in Columbia, South Carolina. He edited the book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence and is the author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, who refused to condemn endorsements from David Duke, the prominent white supremacist and former KKK leader. Duke has told his radio audience that voting against Trump would be, quote, “treason to your heritage.” Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Trump refused to disavow Duke’s support or the support of other white supremacists four times. This is a clip.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know – did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so, when you’re asking me a question, that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.
JAKE TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is – even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, you condemn them, and you don’t want their support?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.
JAKE TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?
DONALD TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups, and I’ll let you know.
JAKE TAPPER: OK, I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…
DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know any – honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him.
AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump has also declined to distance himself from a Benito Mussolini quote that he retweeted. On Sunday, Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” questioned Trump about the tweet.
CHUCK TODD: Right now on Twitter, there is a trending retweet of yours. You retweeted somebody from @ilduce2016. It was a Mussolini quote, but you didn’t know it was Mussolini when you retweeted it. It said, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” That’s a famous Mussolini quote. You retweeted it. Do you like the quote? Did you know it was Mussolini?
DONALD TRUMP: Sure. It’s OK to know it’s Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to – it’s a very good quote. It’s a very interesting quote. And I know it – I saw it. I saw what – and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote.
CHUCK TODD: Well –
DONALD TRUMP: That’s probably why I have –
CHUCK TODD: Mussolini is a known fascist.
DONALD TRUMP: – between Facebook and Twitter, 14 million people, and other people don’t.
CHUCK TODD: Do you want to be associated – do you want to be associated –
DONALD TRUMP: It’s a very interesting quote, and people can talk about it.
CHUCK TODD: Do you want to be associated with a fascist?
DONALD TRUMP: No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s Donald Trump being questioned on NBC. Kevin Alexander Gray, can you talk about Donald Trump? Talk about his – I mean, it was only after tremendous outcry on Sunday, after being on CNN and people speaking out all over the country, and Marco Rubio and others attacking him around not disavowing the Klan, that he tweeted out that, OK, he disassociated himself.
KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY: You know, Donald Trump is a narcissistic white supremacist. And the people that come – a lot of the people that come to hear him, this whole idea of “make America great,” that’s all about making America great for a small group of people, generally white males. I mean, that’s what white male supremacy is about, in their mind. And they believe that they are superior, that America needs to dominate everybody. And, you know, it’s all about chest thumping.
So, you know, I have not – I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump. I think that the people that follow Donald Trump obviously don’t understand how he’s made his money, the idea that someone who was married to an immigrant can stand up and bash immigrants, someone who has made so much money on the backs of the workers can bash workers and disregard workers’ rights, that people support that. Part of the reason that people support Donald Trump is the reason that they supported slavery: They thought that one day they might own slaves. A lot of people think that one day they might be rich. That’s why they play the lottery. And, you know, they think that being rich means that you can say and do and get away with anything that you want to get away with.
And the networks love it, because they’re making a lot of money. It’s great entertainment. The Republican debates – I watched the Republican debates, because you never know what they’re going to say. And all these campaigns, be it the Democratic campaign or Republican campaign, the people that are really making out like bandits are the networks, because they’re getting all this advertising money. So, you know, the media created Donald Trump.
You know, when he was out here questioning Barack Obama’s – where he was born, and people called him out as a racist, his record is very clear. And if the Republicans nominate Donald Trump, well, they get what they get. It will be truth in advertising about their party for him to stand on the podium with – what is it – with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, you know, an old Southerner, who believes in this old South supremacy and the myth of the – the myth of the lost cause and that whole history of the Confederacy. That’s what they’re about.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the first sitting senator to endorse Donald Trump –
KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: – Alabama’s sitting senator, Jeff Sessions.
KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY: So, you know, he’s – as you call him, Trump and those folk play those dog-whistle politics, and I think that’s exactly what Donald Trump is doing, going into Super Tuesday.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kevin Alexander Gray, I want to thank you for being with us, civil rights activist, community organizer, speaking to us from the capital of South Carolina, from Columbia. He edited the book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence and is author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics.
When we come back, Ari Berman joins us, talking about voter rights, talking about who can vote and who can’t, as we come into the biggest voting day in this country, outside of the actual election. It’s Super Tuesday. Stay with us.