After taking fire from all sides of the political spectrum for not condemning an endorsement from a white supremacist leader, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blamed the incident on a “very bad earpiece” used in a cable news interview.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Trump said he did not know who David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, was and refused to condemn the support of white supremacist groups four times, saying he would need to see a list of specific groups first.
But after universal condemnation ahead of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries, Trump said in a Monday morning interview with the Today Show that he had simply misheard CNN host Jake Tapper’s questions.
“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,” said Trump. “What I heard was ‘various groups.’ And I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke.”
In the CNN interview, Trump told Tapper, “I don’t know anything about David Duke.” Trump went on to say, “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’ll let you know.”
At a press conference late last week, Trump had disavowed Duke’s support. In 2000, Trump left the Reform Party, citing, among other reasons, Duke’s participation with the party.
Trump also came under under criticism over the weekend for retweeting quotes from Benito Mussolini. The news site Gawker created a Twitter account it says was designed to lure Trump into retweeting the World War II Italian fascist dictator.
When the origin of the quote was pointed out to Trump by NBC Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd, Trump replied, “It’s OK to know it was Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. … It’s a very good quote. It’s a very interesting quote.”
On Super Tuesday, Trump hopes to build on his victories in three of the four early nominating contests and solidify his position as the leading Republican presidential candidate.