Mike Pence declines to call KKK leader David Duke "deplorable"


In an interview Monday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence refused to condemn former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke as "deplorable," saying he doesn't like calling people names.

Blitzer, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's comments that half of Trump's supporters are part of a "basket of deplorables," asked Pence if Duke, a known Trump supporter, qualified as "deplorable."

"We don't want his support and we don't want the support of the people who think like him," Pence initially said, but he punted on condemning Duke specifically.

"No, I'm not in the name-calling business, Wolf," Pence said. "You know me better than that. What Hillary Clinton did Friday night was shocking. The millions of people who support Donald Trump around this country are not a basket of anything — they are Americans."

The Clinton camp was ready with a clapback:

To be clear, Duke is one of the most well-known figures on the far right, former KKK grand wizard, neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier and unflinching proponent of the theory Jews control the media as part of a sinister plot to force miscegenation upon the white race.

Merriam-Webster defines "deplorable" as "very bad in a way that causes shock, fear or disgust," "lamentable" or "deserving censure or contempt."

So by any measure of the question by a person opposed to things like cross-burning, white supremacy and conspiratorial thinking about the influence of Judaism in world politics, Duke is "deplorable." Earlier this year, following reports Duke was preparing a Senate bid, the Republican Party of Louisiana called him a "hate-filled fraud" who has "no place in our current conversation."

Notably, Pence is somewhat selective about what qualifies as "name-calling business." Just days ago, Pence called Clinton the "most dishonest candidate for president of the United States since Richard Nixon."

The charitable explanation for Pence's refusal to condemn Duke is that he didn't want to implicitly agree with the Clinton campaign's word choice. The less charitable explanation is that, for one reason or another, Duke's brand of racist politics simply doesn't get Pence's ire up. Judging from the Trump campaign's dismal polling among minorities, there might not be much charity left for him or Pence left to cash in on.