You may have noticed that today Donald Trump was asked, repeatedly, whether he repudiated David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. This came up largely because Donald Trump has this remarkable ability to force people to keep asking this question, as well as the related “So. About those white nationalists you keep retweeting?” Joe Cunningham covered today’s disastrous interview that Trump had with Jake Tapper on the subject: let me include the relevant text from said interview.
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 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 would 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 totally unfair, so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.
TAPPER: Okay. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.
TRUMP: I mean, 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. I just don’t know anything about him.
Mr. Trump painted a fairly dark picture of the Reform Party in his statement, noting the role of Mr. Buchanan, along with the roles of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Lenora Fulani, the former standard-bearer of the New Alliance Party and an advocate of Marxist-Leninist politics.
“The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani,” he said in his statement. “This is not company I wish to keep.”
…which is almost certainly why a post-Sessions endorsement Google search for Donald Trump gave me this:
Which I would say represents a basic failure to control the narrative this afternoon, Jeff Sessions and Chris Christie endorsements or no… but I digress. The basic question is, Why is Donald Trump lying about the fact that he didn’t know David Duke, and – this is me being highly charitable – why is Donald Trump doing his best to avoid just making an obvious and vehement condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan? I will suggest to you that it’s possibly not because Donald Trump is a white nationalist himself, although in my opinion Trump is downright eager to milk them for support. Instead, it’s because Donald Trump may have a particular skeleton in his closet. One that would be… awkward.
You see, back in September of 2015 Boing Boing did one of those patented “This would have caused a media firestorm if any other ‘Republican’ candidate had been the subject” articles: they went through old newspaper records, and discovered that Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump was arrested in 1927 in connection with a brawl that apparently took place between Klansmen and policemen over the former’s attempt to join a memorial parade*. Boing Boing was careful not to, say, call Fred Trump a dirty filthy Klansman in his youth who later went on to deliberately keep black people from renting his apartments. No, they were extremely careful not to say that. Nor did they formally go with the “like father, like son” argument – which probably would have been a little unfair of them, at that. Goodness knows that people back in either 1927 or the 1970s acted differently than we do today.
Nonetheless, Donald Trump is incredibly sensitive on this topic. When the New York Times later asked him about it, first he denied his father lived at that address. And that it never happened. And that his father was never charged. And that Boing Boing was a little website. And that it never happened, and that if it happened his father was never charged, and it never happened, so the NYT should never mentioned. And then, after the interviewer went on to something else, Donald Trump came back to the topic once again to insist, and I quote:
It shouldn’t be written because it never happened, No. 1. And No. 2, there was nobody charged.
Now, I’m not a lawyer or a law enforcement official, so I can give my opinion here. And my opinion here is: yes, it happened, and yes, Donald Trump’s dad was probably running with the Klan because in 1927 somebody could still get away with that, barely, if somebody was 21 and stupid, and yes, he probably avoided charges because he was 21 and stupid, and yes, Fred Trump probably remained casually racist to the day he died because he was a New York real estate guy and that’s how they were back then. And, again being fair? That’s not really Donald Trump’s problem, is it? His dad being a jackass, that is.
What is a problem for Donald Trump, though, is that when voters hear the phrase “Trump wants to build a wall and deport all the illegal aliens” in connection with “Dad was maybe in the KKK” they’re going to possibly decide that those two particular factoids are somehow connected. Also: seeing as Donald Trump’s general favorable ratings are in the toilet already, and seeing as an indeterminate yet worrisome** percentage of the Republican party is loudly declaring that it will simply quit if Trump’s the nominee, more bad press is probably contraindicated here. And thus… if Trump pretends that he doesn’t know enough about the Ku Klux Klan to have an opinion, then Donald Trump hopes that he will never have to address questions about his father.
This is, by the way, a fool’s hope. Because if Donald Trump gets the nomination? Expect stories like this. Only they’ll be on newspapers’ front pages, and they’ll be followed up with reporters enjoying an actual budget going through the archives and looking for anything juicy to plaster on headlines from Bangor to San Diego. You think that they won’t? Well, during the 2012 election the media discovered that they couldn’t exactly go after Mitt Romney’s father, seeing as George Romney was a respected civil rights activist and everything – so they went back two generations and hung Romney’s polygamist great-grandfather around Mitt Romney’s neck. Do not expect them to pass up a potentially racist father, particularly one who worked in residential NYC real estate during the 1950s to 1970s.
Simply do not.
Original tip via here.
*This was apparently a lively event, given that two Fascisti were killed when the Blackshirts likewise tried to join the parade. 1927 was one of those years when all sorts of awful people felt free to walk among decent folks, alas. Also: if you ever hear that Fred Trump was actually on the side of the ‘Italians’ who died, the person telling you that means ‘blackshirt Fascists.’ Which admittedly sounds considerably worse, yes?
**Well, worrisome to others. I’m on the #NeverTrump Train, myself.