Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

By Riley Snyder March 10, 2016

Pro-Rubio super PAC ad tying Trump to KKK misses the mark

Florida’s upcoming winner-take-all Republican primary is increasingly seen as the anti-Donald Trump faction’s last hope to stop the New York billionaire's march to the nomination.

Numerous outside groups and super PACs are flooding the state’s airwaves with anti-Trump ads, including one tying him to the Ku Klux Klan.

An ad from Conservative Solutions PAC, which supports Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, includes clips of CNN’s Jake Tapper and Trump.

Tapper: "I asked Donald Trump three times if he would disavow the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan."

Trump: "Well, I have to look at the group."

Narrator: "Trump refuses to denounce the KKK. Think about that — for president?"

Because the ad has aired more than 430 times in Florida, according to Political TV Ad Archive, we thought it was worth taking a closer look.

We gave the billionaire businessman a Pants on Fire rating for claiming to not to know anything about Duke. But it’s a stretch to say Trump "refuses to denounce the KKK" given his record of denouncements before and after the Tapper interview.

The ad cites a Time article recapping Trump’s Feb. 28 interview on CNN’s State of the Union, where Trump dodged multiple questions from Tapper asking if he’d disavow the support of white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke (he would later blame a "bad earpiece" for his noncommittal answers).

Trump’s history with Duke has been pretty well documented by PolitiFact and fellow fact-checkers at the Washington Post and

In a 1991 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Trump said he "hated" what Duke’s success with white voters in a failed bid for the Louisiana governorship represented.

King: "Did the David Duke thing bother you? Fifty-five percent of the whites in Louisiana voted for him."

Trump: "I hate —"

King: "Four hundred New Yorkers contributed."

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."

King: "Anger?"

Trump: "It's anger. I mean, that's an anger vote. People are angry about what's happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they're really in deep trouble."

In 2000, Trump declined to run a Reform Party presidential bid in part because the party attracted the support of Duke, a "Klansman."

"This is not company I wish to keep," he said at the time.

Featured Fact-check

Trump also called Duke "a bigot, a racist, a problem," in a 2000 interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer.

Although Trump disavowed Duke and the KKK in the past, his criticism has been less pointed in 2016.

In August 2015, Trump answered a question by Bloomberg’s John Heilemann asking if he would repudiate David Duke’s supportive comments of Trump’s campaign by saying, "I would do that if it made you feel better. I would certainly repudiate."

The story popped up again after Buzzfeed reported on Feb. 25 that Duke was urging his supporters to vote for Trump, saying on his radio show that failure to do so would be "treason to your heritage."

Asked about the endorsement the next day at a press conference, Trump said he wasn’t aware of it.

"I didn’t even know he endorsed me," he said. "David Duke endorsed me? Okay, all right. I disavow, okay?"

After the interview with Tapper, Trump rejected Duke’s support in interviews on Good Morning America and Morning Joe, calling him a "bad person who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years."

It’s worth noting that Duke, despite his support for white nationalism and former membership in neo-Nazi and openly racist groups, hasn’t been associated with the Klan for more than 40 years.

Duke founded a Louisiana chapter of the racist group in 1974, but left the organization in 1980 because of its tendency towards violence and his inability to stop members of other chapters from doing "stupid or violent things."

The modern-day Klan is a hodgepodge of dozens of independent chapters spread throughout the country with a total membership around 5,000, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

There’s no central Klan organization that represents every chapter, but Arkansas-based Knights Party spokeswoman Rachel Pendergraft told Politico in December that Trump was a major talking point in the group’s recruitment efforts.

Our ruling

A pro-Rubio super PAC said, "Trump refuses to denounce the KKK."

Trump hasn’t gone after the KKK and white nationalists like Duke with the same fervor as his opponents, but it’s inaccurate to make a blanket statement based on a single interview given his history of rejecting white supremacists.

We rate the ad as Mostly False.

Our Sources

Anti-Defamation League, "About the Ku Klux Klan," Accessed March 8, 2016

Southern Poverty Law Center, "Ku Klux Klan," Accessed March 8, 2016

The New York Times, "Donald Trump Calls David Duke a ‘Bad Person’ and Mentions a Third-Party Run," March 3, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump's absurd claim that he knows nothing about former KKK leader David Duke," March 2, 2016

Washington Post Fact Checker, "Donald Trump and David Duke: For the record," March 1, 2016, "Trump’s David Duke Amnesia," March 1, 2016

Good Morning America, "Donald Trump Speaks Out on the KKK, Super Tuesday," March 1, 2016

Political TV Ad Archive, "Better Way," Feb. 29, 2016

CNN, "Rivals slam Trump for blaming KKK stumble on earpiece," Feb. 29, 2016

The New York Times, "Donald Trump Blames Earpiece for Declining to Disavow David Duke," Feb. 29, 2016

Youtube, "Donald Trump Tells Jake Tapper He Won't Denounce David Duke or The KKK," Feb. 28, 2016

Twitter, @realdonaldtrump, Feb. 28, 2016

Time Magazine, "Donald Trump Refuses to Condemn KKK, Disavow David Duke Endorsement," Feb. 28, 2016

Youtube, "Trump "disavows" former KKK leader's support," Feb. 26, 2016

Buzzfeed, "David Duke Urges His Supporters To Volunteer And Vote For Trump," Feb. 25, 2016

Politico, "White supremacist groups see Trump bump," Dec. 10, 2015

Youtube, "Donald Trump: The Full 'With All Due Respect' Interview," August 27, 2015

The Telegraph, "David Duke: Nick Griffin was 'lynched' on Question Time," October 23, 2009

NBC, "Donald Trump Says He Will Not Run for President in 2000," Feb. 14, 2000

Donald J. Trump Presidential Exploratory Committee, "Statement of Donald J. Trump," Feb. 14, 2000

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Riley Snyder

Pro-Rubio super PAC ad tying Trump to KKK misses the mark

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up