Donald Trump blamed a “lousy earpiece” and a misunderstanding for failing three times to condemn the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in a CNN interview that prompted outrage from his rival presidential candidates.
Trump in an interview on NBC on Monday said he has never met white supremacist Duke, who voiced backing for Trump on his radio program recently and praised him for “taking on the Jewish establishment.”
“I know who he is, but I never met David Duke,” Trump said Monday. “I disavowed David Duke the day before.”
Trump said he thought he was being asked by CNN host Jake Tapper Sunday about Duke and “various groups” and Trump wanted to know which groups.
“I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad ear piece,” Trump explained Monday about the circumstances of the CNN interview. “What I heard was ‘various groups.’”
Trump also said Monday he will fight back against the Republican establishment if the party works against him as he leads in delegates to secure the presidential nomination.
“If they violate the pledge, I will do something that will make them very unhappy,” Trump said. The pledge was signed last year by Trump with the Republican National Committee in which he agreed not to run as a third-party candidate while the party agreed to maintain a level playing field in the race.
A nationwide CNN/ORC poll released Monday found Trump has 49 percent support among Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio has 16 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has 15 percent.
Trump, a billionaire real estate developer who faced off with Rubio in a debate last week, said the lower poll numbers are the reason for a change in the tone from the U.S. senator from Florida. In the past few days, the two have traded insults about each other on the campaign trail.
“He did it because he’s desperate,” Trump said. “He’s down in the polls. He’s a nervous wreck.”