Appearing this morning on Jake Tapper's State of the Union, Donald Trump was asked to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists and politely declined.
Trump, being a cautious sort and not one to just talk without gathering all the facts and giving a matter serious consideration, said he would have to do more research because at the moment he lacked sufficient information to disavow them.
The question arose when Tapper asked Trump about the Anti-Defamation League's request that he disavow Duke's endorsement and that of other white supremacist groups.
Here's their exchange which you can watch here:
Trump: 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. You may have groups in there that are totally fine -- it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I'll let you know.
Tapper: Ok. I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but —
Trump: Honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I've ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him.
This is the kind of situation where Trump's lack of support from the broader institutions of American conservatism is going to end up hurting him.
It's not inconceivable to me that these remarks could be spun away as simply a clumsy answer to a hostile and somewhat unfair line of questioning if there were people out there eager to do the spinning.
But because most of the conservative movement has decided it doesn't like Trump, conservative pundits are piling on with criticism of these remarks. And that makes it entirely kosher for "objective" journalists to report as a factual, non-contested story that Donald Trump is endorsed by white supremacist organizations who he has refused to disavow.
Here's the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis, for example.
KKK, David Duke, Putin, butchers of Beijing, Mussolini. Hmm. Can't wait to see to whom POTUS Trump would give Presidential Medal of Freedom— James Pethokoukis (@JimPethokoukis) February 28, 2016
And here's Republican media consultant Rick Wilson:
Guess we're gonna see what 99% black turnout looks like in the Fall https://t.co/6WTm4Ug8sA— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) February 28, 2016
At any rate, Trump has certainly said enough things that enough people were sure would make his campaign implode that I am not offering any predictions about the impact of these remarks on the primaries on Super Tuesday. But it's certainly an indication that he would be a toxic element in a general election.