Indiana Gov. Mike Pence refused on Monday to say David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is a “deplorable” supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pushed Pence, Trump’s running mate, to respond to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton saying on Friday that half of her rival’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables.”
“There are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who ― David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists ― who would fit into that category of deplorables, right?” Blitzer asked.
First, Pence dodged.
“I’m not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke’s name,” Pence said. “Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.” (Trump initially declined several opportunities to distance himself from Duke. White nationalists wrote on hate websites that they interpreted Trump’s behavior as a tacit show of support.)
Blitzer pushed. “Well, you’d call him a deplorable?” he asked Pence.
“No, I’m not in the name-calling business,” the vice-presidential candidate responded, proving that no question is too easy.
“What Hillary Clinton did Friday night was shocking,” Pence continued. “I mean millions of people who support Donald Trump around this country are not a basket of anything ― they are Americans. And they deserve the respect of the Democrat nominee for president of the United States.”
Clinton partially walked back her statement on Saturday, but she was quick to jump on Pence’s bungled conversation with Blitzer.
“If you won’t say the KKK is deplorable, you have no business running the country,” she tweeted Monday.
After the interview, Pence insisted his comments had been misunderstood.
Duke praised Pence’s interview performance later on Monday.
“It’s good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media,” he told BuzzFeed.
Duke also seems to not mind the title “deplorable.”
“#BasketofDeplorables,” he wrote in a tweet accompanying a highly edited image showing him, Trump and other prominent Trump supporters standing behind a banner reading, “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.”
This article has been updated with additional reactions from Mike Pence and David Duke.