With the election just three weeks away, critics of Donald Trump have been raising concerns about some of the groups that have endorsed the president’s re-election—including violent extremist organizations.
During the first presidential debate on September 29, Trump was asked by the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, whether he would be willing to condemn his white nationalist supporters. While the president said “sure,” he also told the far-right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” drawing shock and outrage from Democrats and some Republicans. Now, critics of the president are citing extremist endorsements of Trump to discourage people from voting for him next month
“This election is a tough call because one candidate was endorsed by both the Taliban and the KKK and the other was endorsed by a broad bipartisan coalition and The New England Journal of Medicine,” screenwriter and author Bess Kalb wrote in a tongue-in-cheek post on Sunday. At the time of writing, the post had been retweeted more than 70,000 times and liked by more than 310,000 Twitter users.
This election is a tough call because one candidate was endorsed by both the Taliban and the KKK and the other was endorsed by a broad bipartisan coalition and the New England Journal of Medicine.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) October 11, 2020
Many others have made the same claim to criticize Trump. Twitter user Travis Allen, who has more than 216,000 followers and says he has been blocked by the president “three times,” wrote on Sunday, “Trump has managed to get the endorsement of both the KKK and the Taliban.”
Trump has managed to get the endorsement of both the KKK and the Taliban.
— Travis Allen ðŸ‡ºðŸ‡¸ (@TravisAllen02) October 11, 2020
The Taliban is an Islamist extremist group that the U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, following the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., that year. Although the Taliban was not behind the September 11 attacks, they were allegedly providing cover and support to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks. Under Trump’s administration, the U.S. has signed a peace deal with the group and begun to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist hate group that has violently targeted minorities, particularly Black Americans, Jews and immigrants. The extremist organization was founded in 1865, at the end of the Civil War. In 1870, the KKK was classified as a “terrorist organization” by a federal grand jury, and the FBI continues to investigate and monitor the group.
On Saturday, October 10, the Taliban did endorse Trump’s re-election in an interview with CBS News. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, told CBS that the Taliban’s leaders “hope” Trump wins in November.
“We hope he will win the election and wind up U.S. military presence in Afghanistan,” Mujahid said. The spokesman pointed to a recent tweet from the president promising that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2020.
“Trump might be ridiculous for the rest of the world, but he is sane and wise man for the Taliban,” a senior Taliban leader told CBS News.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s re-election campaign, said the campaign “rejects” the Taliban’s support. “The Taliban should know that the president will always protect American interests by any means necessary,” he said.
The claim about the KKK endorsing Trump is less straightforward.
David Duke, the former grand wizard of the white supremacist group, has repeatedly voiced his support for Trump. In July, Duke endorsed Trump and also suggested the president should select Fox News host Tucker Carlson as his running mate.
“Trump & Tucker is the only way to stop the commie Bolsheviks! It is the only path to beat them! #TrumpTucker2020,” Duke tweeted. The former KKK leader was later banned from Twitter.
Notably, the president rejected Duke’s support back in 2016. In interviews on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and ABC’s Good Morning America, Trump said the white supremacist was a “bad person who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” according to PolitiFact.
Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a prominent KKK newspaper—TheCrusader—voiced support for Trump’s candidacy. However, Pastor Thomas Robb, who wrote a glowing article expressing optimism about Trump’s candidacy for the publication, told The Washington Post that the paper was not formally endorsing his campaign.
“It’s not an endorsement because, like anybody, there’s things you disagree with. But he kind of reflects what’s happening throughout the world. There seems to be a surge of nationalism worldwide as nationals reclaim their borders,” Robb said at the time.
In 2016, the Trump campaign rejected the positive words from The Crusader. “This publication is repulsive and their views do not represent the tens of millions of Americans who are uniting behind our campaign,” a spokesperson said.
Some Trump critics have also circulated an image on social media showing KKK members wearing their white robes and carrying a sign reading “Trump-Pence.” However, this is a doctored image, as fact-checking last month by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies revealed. The sign in the original photo actually read “Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” and there was no mention of Trump or Pence.
The Taliban have endorsed Trump and expressed their hope that he will win his re-election bid. But the KKK has not formally endorsed Trump, although the organization’s former leader is backing the president in 2020 and a prominent newspaper for the extremist group voiced support for his candidacy in 2016. The Trump campaign and the president have publicly rejected this support.