Pierson to Tapper: ‘Only Reason David Duke Even Has a Platform Is Because CNN Keeps Talking About It’

Tuesday on CNN’s “The Lead,” Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson addressed the continuing questions over the support from former KKK leader David Duke of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by explaining Trump had denounced Duke and adding, “The only reason David Duke even has a platform is because CNN keeps talking about it.”

Partial transcript as follows:

TAPPER: You heard what Governor Pence said last night on CNN and what he said today about using the word “deplorable,” and David Duke, who I think by any objective measure believes horrific, deplorable, racist, anti-Semitic things. The campaign said they do not want his support or the support of people who think like him. Why not call him deplorable? The critics say that not doing so makes it look as though the Trump campaign is trying to not offend white supremacists and nationalists.

PIERSON: Donald Trump has denounced David Duke on a number of occasions. On the exact first day the word came out that he was supporting Mr. Trump. I believe CNN asked the question at the press conference and he shut it down immediately. The only reason David Duke even has a platform is because CNN keeps talking about it. Let me agree with something Tim Kaine said in that package there about if you ignore something it grows and gets worse. That’s absolutely right. That’s exactly why we have ISIS today. For Hillary Clinton to call half of the people of this country deplorable, that’s absolutely disqualifying her. It wasn’t half of Trump’s supporters, she actually went after all of Trump’s supporters by saying half are all those terrible names—racist and sexist, homophobic, and the other half were just desperate. She has essentially called out 100% of Trump’s supporters. But I will say this is typical of the elite politicians and if you don’t agree with them somehow you’re a deplorable person and that’s what Hillary Clinton thinks of half of America.

TAPPER: Well she has backed off the word half. She said she shouldn’t have said half but said there is a basket of deplorables that supports Donald Trump. Let’s talk about some of them. Pence’s interview last night has earned praise from white supremacists and Neo Nazis and other racists. David Duke told Buzzfeed. ‘It’s good to see Pence start to reject this absolute controlled media.’ James Edwards, a white supremacist radio host, said ‘Bravo.’ The Daily Stormer, the Neo Nazi website, said of the interview with Pence, ‘Trump chose a solid guy to back him up it seems.’ Does it make you at all uncomfortable to hear praise from people like that?

PIERSON:  No, because you can’t control what other people do. What makes me uncomfortable is when the father of a terrorist openly supports a presidential candidate, when someone who simply wants to control the border is somehow a racist or a bigot. People who want to control illegal immigration are labeled racists and bigots. People who want to stop ISIS from coming into their commiunties are called Islamophobic. These are hard-working American citizens and I know Hillary Clinton and a lot of her friends don’t live in a border state, their children go to private schools and they don’t have to live with the impact of illegal immigration like many of us in border states do. But to insult them based on insinuation is absolutely absurd. We can turn around and say look at people supporting Hillary Clinton, burning the American flag, defacing public property, violently protesting, calling for cops to be murdered in the streets…

TAPPER: Katrina, no one has called people who don’t want ISIS to move into their neighborhood Islamophobic. That has never happened in the history of the world.

PIERSON: That is absolutely what they are talking about. if you speak out against —

TAPPER: No. People call people who hate Muslims Islamophobic, but people don’t say that about people who don’t want ISIS to move in. Listen it’s not just critics who are in the liberal media. According to his office, Republican Senator Mike Lee today spoke with Pence and told him, quote, ‘Republicans must identify David Duke’s racism as deplorable.’ Lee also encouraged the Trump campaign to be explicit in its denunciation of the alt right movement. That is not a liberal. That is Utah Senator Mike Lee, a Tea Party conservative red Republican. He thinks your campaign and you candidates are not doing enough to condemn these racist views. is Mike Lee wrong?

PIERSON: He is also a never-Trumper who has never had anything nice to say about Mr. Trump. Really, this entire interview and all of these interviews based around this one word “deplorable” is simply because the Trump campaign is not going to use Hillary Clinton’s terminology. That’s what we’re talking about here. The campaign has disavowed—Mr. Trump as well as Mike Pence said we do not like the support or want the support of individuals like this, but we can’t control them.

TAPPER: Okay then don’t use the word deplorable. Let’s break out the thesaurus. Is David Duke vile?

PIERSON: Absolutely, and that’s exactly why the campaign wants nothing to do with him. We have said that a number of times on a number of networks. And the only reason why David Duke gets play is because the media keeps him out there, not the Trump campaign.

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