Fact check: What Trump really said about Ku Klux Klan

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Signature Flight Hangar at Port-Columbus International Airport, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Signature Flight Hangar at Port-Columbus International Airport, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. AP

What Donald Trump said – and did not say – about the Ku Klux Klan and former Klansman David Duke has emerged as a major controversy in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Trump has hesitated to reject an endorsement from former KKK leader David Duke,” said pro-Democratic group American Bridge.

“A man who wavers on whether or not to disavow the KKK is one step closer to becoming the Republican Party’s standard-bearer,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasions and no games,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

In a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) rebuked Donald Trump's Ku Klux Klan controversy, demanding Trump denounce racism. "This party does not prey on people’s prejudice. This is the party of Lincoln

But Trump has disavowed Duke more than once.

Here’s precisely what Trump has said.

NEWS CONFERENCE with Chris Christie, Friday, Feb. 26

Asked, “How do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?”

TRUMP: “I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? OK. All right. I disavow. OK?”

CNN’s STATE OF THE UNION program, Sunday, Feb. 28

Jake TAPPER: “I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage.

“Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?”

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 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 you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.”

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?”

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 would 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.”

TAPPER: “The Ku Klux Klan?”

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 will let you know.”

TAPPER: “OK. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but. . . .”

TRUMP: “I don’t know any – honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.”

TWITTER, Sunday, Feb. 28, after the CNN interview aired

FACEBOOK Sunday, Feb. 28, after the CNN interview aired


As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke- I disavow.

Posted by Donald J. Trump on Sunday, February 28, 2016

NBC ‘TODAY’ SHOW, Monday, Feb. 29

TRUMP: “I’m sitting in a house in Florida, with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. What I heard was ‘various groups.’ And I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke.”


George STEPHANOPOULOS: “You’ve seen that tweet from Mitt Romney. He called your response ‘disqualifying and disgusting,’ says your ‘coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America.’ Your response?”

TRUMP: “David Duke and all were disavowed. I disavowed him on Friday. I disavowed him right after that because I thought if there was any question on him, you take a look at Twitter.

“Almost immediately after on Twitter and Facebook, they were disavowed again. I disavowed him every time I speak to somebody virtually and you know, they just keep it going. They keep it going and they said, ‘Oh, we never looked at your Twitter account. We never looked at Facebook.’ I said, ‘Take a look at Facebook.’ It was totally disavowed.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “So, are you prepared right now to make a clear and unequivocal statement renouncing the support of all white supremacists?”

TRUMP: “Of course I am. I mean, there’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have. You take a look at Palm Beach, Florida, I built the Mar-a-Lago Club, totally open to everybody; a club that frankly set a new standard in clubs and a new standard in Palm Beach and I’ve gotten great credit for it. That is totally open to everybody. So, of course, I am.”

In the 1990s

Trump eagerly denounced Duke on more than one occasion decades ago, according to Factcheck.org.

In 2000, Trump told NBC’s “Today” that he wouldn’t seek the Reform Party nomination because he said the party was “self-destructing.”

Matt LAUER: “When you say the party is self-destructing, what do you see as the biggest problem with the Reform Party right now?”

Trump: “Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined – a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.”

The New York Times also reported at the time that Trump issued a news release referring to Duke as “a Klansman” and not the “company I wish to keep.”

Trump also spoke out against Duke in 1991 – three days after Duke lost a race for governor in Louisiana.

CNN’s Larry KING: “Did the David Duke thing bother you? Fifty-five percent of the whites in Louisiana voted for him.”

Trump: “I hate seeing what it represents, but I guess it just shows there’s a lot of hostility in this country. There’s a tremendous amount of hostility in the United States.”

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark