David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard now at the center of GOP controversy over his support for Donald Trump, responded to the presidential candidate's denouncement of his backing: ""I'll laugh it off. It's fine."
In an interview Monday night on Fox Radio's "The Alan Colmes Show," Duke said he never officially endorsed Trump but that he merely encouraged listeners on his "David Duke Radio Program" Wednesday to volunteer and vote for Trump. Duke clarified Monday that he agrees with Trump's stances on immigration and desire to work with Russia, but also jabbed at the candidate for what he called "lip service for Israel."
"When you say you endorse someone, you're basically endorsing the person and basically people get the impression you're endorsing everything about them," Duke told Colmes. "I think that voting sometimes is not a question of endorsing someone, but sometimes you vote strategically."
Trump had stated in a press conference Friday that he didn't know Duke had supported him recently and said, "I disavow." However, after the press conference, CNN's "State of the Union" host Jake Tapper asked Trump in an interview Sunday if he would, again, condemn Duke but also all other white supremacists during the election. Trump responded that he couldn't condemn a group he knew nothing about, saying "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."
Trump's apparent unwillingness to disavow the KKK on Sunday quickly sparked a barrage of criticism. After the interview with Tapper, the Republican presidential front-runner tweeted out a video from the Friday press conference in which he initially disavowed Duke's support.
But despite the denouncement, Duke continued to praise Trump on Colme's show Monday night.
"I'll laugh it off. It's fine. Look, Donald Trump, do whatever you need to do to get elected to this country, because we need a change," he said.
During his own radio show Wednesday, Duke also told listeners that it would be "treason to your heritage" to vote for Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz instead of Trump, according to BuzzFeed News which initially reported Duke's comments.
Trump had also denounced Duke on two other occasions before his rejection of Duke's support Friday. On Dec. 29, 2015, Trump told a reporter in a press gaggle that "David Duke would certainly be wrong" for claiming that he is less extreme than Trump. In an interview on Feb. 14, 2000, with NBC News, Trump slammed Duke when discussing a possible run for president under the Reform party, which was associated with Duke.
"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," Trump told NBC News.
Nonetheless, Duke reiterated on Colmes' show that he plans to vote for Trump. "Donald Trump, we hope you keep all your promises, you've spoken like no other candidate in recent history," he said.