KKK plans post-election parade: Can Trump and the GOP disown the Klan?

A Trump spokeswoman disavowed the parade, but the white supremacist group continues to associate itself with the president-elect.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Using part of the flag as a screen, a Ku Klux Klansman tries to conceal his identity at a rally outside the Criminal Court Building in New York in Oct. 1999. The group plans to hold a parade in North Carolina to celebrate President-elect Donald Trump's victory.

The Trump campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party are trying to distance themselves from a Ku Klux Klan parade planned in the Tar Heel State to celebrate the president-elect’s win.

“Mr. Trump and his campaign team continue to disavow these groups and individuals and strongly condemn their message of hate,” Hope Hicks, a Trump spokeswoman, said in a statement to CNN.

As Trump has been accused of racist, misogynistic, and hateful rhetoric on the campaign trail, white supremacist groups including the KKK have linked themselves to the candidate. The Trump campaign has repeatedly rejected these endorsements. But the parade and other continuing support from the so-called alt-right brings into question whether Trump can effectively shun these followers, or if he will remain plagued, as some of his supporters say, by guilt by association. 

One of the largest KKK groups in the country announced the parade on its website last week. The Loyal White Knights of Pelham, N.C., near the Virginia border, scheduled the parade for Dec. 3, but listed no time or place. The announcement appeared above an image of the president-elect and the words, “Trump=Trump’s Race United My People,” according to the Washington Times. By Saturday afternoon, the announcement was removed from the group’s website.

The Loyal White Knights is “perhaps the most active Klan group in the United States today,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. It has between 150 to 200 members spread across the country, and is deemed a hate group by the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In addition to the Trump campaign condemning the parade, the chair of the North Carolina Republican Party denounced the group.  

“We are disgusted and condemn this extremist ideology and associated actions in the strongest possible terms,” said Robin Hayes in a statement to CNN. “These acts and thought processes are no reflection of the heartbeat of this great country and are counter to the efforts to make America great again. We stand with the Democratic Party in calling these out-of-state troublemakers to go home.”

Trump wouldn’t be the first president to receive unwanted attention from the KKK. Former President Truman was accused by newspapers of being a Klan member. According to the US Senate, however, the truth was Mr. Truman vigorously fought the Klan in Jackson County, Miss.

But alt-right groups and individuals have attached themselves to Trump’s ideas and policies. Trump has advocated for strict border control, a ban on Muslims, and vocal support of Vladimir Putin, all tenets that appear to appeal to some of these groups and individuals.

When a white supremacist newspaper endorsed Trump for his “nationalist views”, his campaign quickly disavowed the endorsement. It called the endorsement “repulsive” and said “their views do not represent the tens of millions of Americans who are uniting behind our campaign.”

But some commentators, including self-identified members of the alt-right, credit Trump's candidacy with giving their movement national prominence. The president-elect has "managed to push white nationalism into a very mainstream position," one alt-right Twitter user, who asked to be identified only by his handle, @JaredTSwift, told The Daily Beast. "People have adopted our rhetoric, sometimes without even realizing it. We’re setting up for a massive cultural shift."

David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klan and a US Senate candidate for Louisiana, has also associated himself with Trump throughout the election. While Trump at first wavered on Mr. Duke’s endorsement of him, Trump eventually denounced it after coming under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike.

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