President Donald Trump has provided a “lot of encouragement” to the Klu Klux Klan and hasn’t done enough to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Hillary Clinton said Friday, though she stopped short of calling her former rival racist.
“I believe that he has given a lot of encouragement and rhetorical support to the Ku Klux Klan,” the former presidential candidate and secretary of state told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Friday, noting that Mr. Trump “accepted the support” of David Duke, a former KKK leader.
Trump drew criticism for his initial hesitance to disavow Duke’s endorsement during the campaign. He later condemned Duke.
Clinton also called out Trump for his response to a rally organized by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12. The rally turned violent as the white supremacist groups clashed with people protesting the event, leaving one person dead and several injured.
Trump initially blamed “both sides” for the violence, drawing criticism from Democrats and Republicans who said that he failed to denounce white supremacism in strong enough terms.
Trump later condemned hate groups more forcefully, adding “racism is evil,” but has since offered conflicting comments on who was responsible for the violence at the Charlottesville rally.
“I believe that he has not condemned the neo-Nazis and the self-proclaimed white supremacists in Charlottesville and other settings,” said Clinton, who made her own statement against the violent rally after it occurred last month.
When asked if she thought Trump was racist, Clinton demurred.
“I can’t tell you what’s in his heart,” she told Woodruff.
But Clinton did offer a possible explanation for Trump’s approach to talking about race, saying that it might be driven by “total rank cynical opportunism.” She added: “He’s got a hardcore base that believes these things, and he’s going to keep feeding it.”
Clinton also said Trump took advantage of the birther conspiracy theory — which held falsely that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States — and that the president had been sued for racial discrimination by the federal government during his career in real estate development. Ultimately, Trump and his family settled that suit with the Department of Justice, but did not admit any wrongdoing.
Clinton said as a leader, Trump should “speak up on behalf of the rights of all Americans” and “the respect we should show for the diversity of our country.”
She added she would be among those giving the president credit if he successfully brokers a deal to protect “dreamers,” something on which he’s worked since deciding to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last week. DACA, through executive order, offers renewable work permits and temporary deportation relief to children illegally brought here by their parents; Trump gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution, one of the items he discussed this week with Democrats at the White House.
“Memorializing that protection for these 800,000 striving young people in legislation would be a legitimate accomplishment,” Clinton said, adding Trump’s signing of such a bill “ would only come about because of bipartisan support.”
The comments come as Clinton embarks on a tour to promote her new book, “What Happened,” which was released this week.
In the memoir, Clinton looks back at the 2016 election and offers a stark assessment of her mistakes as a candidate, as well as other forces that she said explain why she lost the race.
See Judy Woodruff’s extended interview with Hillary Clinton on Friday’s broadcast. See more from the conversation online here.