The Slatest

Mike Pence Says He Wouldn’t Call David Duke “Deplorable,” May Not Believe in Baskets

Mike Pence is shocked (and surely appalled) to hear from Hillary Clinton that there is an unsavory element to the cast of supporters the Trump campaign has ginned up over the past year. Hillary Clinton, of course, classified this generally bigoted section of the Trump bandwagon as “the basket of deplorables” last week. At the time, Clinton estimated you could fit about half of Trump’s support in this hypothetical basket before walking it back and saying that ratio was a bit too high.

On Monday, during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Pence confirmed that he believed Clinton’s standard of what constitutes deplorable behavior on the campaign trail (and in life) was perhaps a bit harsh and moved to tighten up the whole “deplorable” definition a bit such that white nationalist and literal former KKK grand wizard David Duke managed to avoid the basket.

Blitzer recounted Clinton’s comments and appeared to throw Duke’s name into the question almost as an afterthought, a settled case of a clearly deplorable human, right? “You would call him deplorable?” Blitzer asked. I mean, right? Wrong. “No, I’m not in the name-calling business, Wolf,” Pence responded.

Here’s the full exchange:

BLITZER: Let’s get into this whole issue that Hillary Clinton raised the other night when she spoke about “the basket of deplorables.” She said that half – in her initial statement, she said this, she said, “to be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what i call the ‘basket of deplorables’ – right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” Afterwards, very quickly, within a day, she issued a statement saying she regretted saying half, it wasn’t half. I spoke to her press secretary today, I said, well, what percentage, he wouldn’t give me a percentage. But she said, there are supporters – and you know this – there are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who – David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists – who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?

PENCE: As I’ve told you the last time I was on, I’m not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke’s name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.

BLITZER: So you call him a deplorable. You would call him deplorable?

PENCE: No, I’m not in the name-calling business, Wolf. You know me better than that. What Hillary Clinton did Friday night was shocking. I mean, the millions of people who support Donald Trump around this country are not a basket of anything. They are Americans. And they deserve the respect of the Democrat nominee for president of the United States. For her to rattle off this litany of pejoratives was just really shocking.

David Duke, however, appears to be pro-basket.

Mike Pence may not even believe in baskets.

Update, 8:45 p.m.: David Duke responds to Pence’s comments telling BuzzFeed that the “Republican Party is big tent” and “It’s ridiculous that they attack me because of my involvement in that non-violent klan four decades ago”:

“It’s good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media,” Duke told BuzzFeed News. “The truth is that the Republican Party in Louisiana — I received the vast majority of Republican votes for United States Senator before and for governor before that in my state. The truth is the Republican Party is big tent. I served in the Republican caucus. I was in the Republican caucus in the legislature. I had a perfect Republican voting record. It’s ridiculous that they attack me because of my involvement in that non-violent klan four decades ago.”