Donald Trump is a racist. He says racist things, has endorsed racist policies while running for president and has engaged in racist practices while running his various businesses over the last 40 years. As most of American history has shown us, being a racist is by no means a disqualification for running for president. However, accepting the support of a terrorist organization should be.
Trump was openly endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, and his campaign is accepting help from the KKK, America’s oldest and most deadly terrorist organization. If that isn’t a wake-up call to African-American voters, in particular, I don’t know what will be.
On Friday, Trump was asked by a reporter how he felt about being endorsed by Duke (as well as by several other klaverns across the country). Trump, visibly annoyed by the question, said that he “disavowed” Duke, but not the KKK. After 48 hours of criticism from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, the Republican National Committee and just about anyone else involved in the 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted his “disavowed” clip again Sunday.
Then things got really interesting. During a Sunday-morning interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, when asked again about the endorsement, Trump lied and claimed to “not know” David Duke, then said he had no idea which organizations did or did not support him.
The press was all over this story most of Sunday but didn’t really tap into how serious this situation is. Let us be clear: The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization. Like Boko Haram or al-Qaida or the Islamic State group. The KKK and its offshoots have killed thousands of African Americans and beaten even more; and just a few days ago, KKK members protesting Mexican immigrants stabbed three counterprotesters during a brawl. Any candidate claiming not to know what the Klan is while not universally distancing himself from the organization in every way possible is a threat to national security, and a specific threat to the American people.
Mainstream media outlets allow uninformed cops, pundits and analysts to suggest all day long that Black Lives Matter activists, the Black Panthers, or even President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are terrorists. And yet, here we are with an actual terrorist organization supporting a candidate, and he gives them a pat on the knee under the table, and no one will call this what it is. (Well, maybe one person.)
Further, this speaks volumes about the state of public discourse about race in America and how bigotry is soft-pedaled for political gain. Trump lied on CNN. Not only does he know who David Duke is, but 16 years ago he disliked him so much, he didn’t join the Reform Party for fear of being associated with racists.
Said Trump in a statement then, published by the New York Times back in 2000: “The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a Communist, Ms. Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.”
However, now racists are OK so long as it’s politically expedient. Trump regularly has neo-Nazis at his rallies and, outside of one instance, never “disavows” their support.
Between his first “disavowed” Friday and his interview Sunday, I’m sure Team Trump became aware of the fact that the American National super PAC, founded by a consortium of white terror groups, has been making robocalls on Trump’s behalf. Reports out of Super Tuesday states Minnesota and Vermont have revealed that there are recorded calls telling voters that Trump will stop the “gradual genocide against the white race” and to not vote for Marco Rubio because he’s “Cuban.” And just in case Trump claims not to know that this was going on, he admitted to accepting a $250 check from the organization’s founder, William Daniel Johnson.
Lastly, this isn’t the Republican Party’s first or second flirtation with the Ku Klux Klan in recent years. In 2014 Steve Scalise (R-La.) was busted for speaking at a KKK rally in Louisiana and tacitly supporting Duke, and he was summarily defended by Republicans. Even a member of the Congressional Black Caucus came out to cape for him. Not to mention the half dozen or so Republicans with KKK “associations” exposed by Anonymous in 2015.
Now is not the time for disingenuous discussion and hand-wringing. By Trump’s own standards (considering he once said that all mosques should be looked into), his association with the KKK would make him unfit to serve as president. And while the process may allow for him to win the Republican nomination, any American, of any color, creed or nationality, should go out, register to vote and make sure that he doesn’t become president of the United States. If the war on terror starts at home, the least we can do is make sure candidates aren’t giving terrorists aid and comfort.
Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.