Donald Trump's KKK flap has finally lost him "Morning Joe": Even Joe Scarborough calls Trump's latest stunt "disqualifying"

Ahead of the SEC primary, Trump attempts to muddy the waters on David Duke's support and loses Joe Scarborough's

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published February 29, 2016 2:33PM (EST)

  (AP/Richard Drew/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(AP/Richard Drew/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

A new poll out ahead of tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections shows Donald Trump on the edge of majority support in the Republican party with 49 percent of the vote -- but that was before his disturbingly KKK-filled weekend that turned one of his biggest fanboys in the media, Joe Scarborough, against him.

“That’s disqualifying right there,” the "Morning Joe" host said of Trump's refusal to disavow the support of former Klu Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who recently encouraged his followers to vote and work for Trump's campaign to "meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have" and protect "your heritage."

Responding to Duke's semi-endorsement on Sunday, Trump tip-toed around the issue of continued support from white nationalists, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that "I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” Trump continued: “So, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know, did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so, you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.”

On his show Monday, Scarborough revealed great disappointment in his friend -- whom he's allowed to phone into his show for months, leading to accusations that the Republican is overly cozy with the candidate -- calling Trump's play to cozy up to Duke ahead of the so-called SEC primary in the South "breathtaking":

That is disqualifying right there. To say you don’t know about the Ku Klux Klan? You don’t know about David Duke? And the most stunning thing is. This isn’t buying him a single vote. Is he really so stupid that he think southerners aren’t offended by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke? Is he really so ignorant of Southern voters that he thinks this is the way to their heart — to go neutral, to play Switzerland when you’re talking about the Klan? And to say he doesn’t know enough information about the Klan to condemn them — exactly what does Donald Trump expect to learn in the next 24 hours about the Klan.

Scarborough's on air comments echoed his sentiments in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Monday morning. "Is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?" the former Republican congressman asked:

These are questions that have no good answers for a Republican Party on the verge of nominating a man who sounds more like a Dixiecrat from the 1950s than the kind of nominee the GOP needs four years after losing Hispanics by 44 percent, Asian-Americans by 47 percent, and black Americans by 87 percent.

Scarborough expressed a dismay at not just Trump's base instinct to appeal to the racist impulses of Republican voters, but their insatiable appetite for it:

What Mika and I found offensive ended up attracting even more Republican primary voters to Donald Trump’s campaign. His approval ratings kept rising over the next two months, and in last week’s South Carolina primary, 75% of South Carolina’s GOP voters supported that same Muslim ban.

The day I hung up on Donald Trump, I asked on air, “Is this what Germany looked like in 1933?” Later, I warned Republicans that Trump’s rhetoric could lead to a brokered convention where “the party will kill itself.” But it looks like I overestimated primary voters in the early GOP contests. A brokered convention is now just the fantasy of Republican elites and Marco Rubio fans. The harsher reality is that the next GOP nominee will be a man who refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and one of its most infamous Grand Wizards when telling the ugly truth wouldn’t have cost him a single vote.

For his part, Trump defended his response on the "Today" show Monday morning, noting that he had just days before disavowed Duke and blaming his bizarre CNN interview on "a very bad ear piece."

Trump's remaining rivals, however, hoping to avoid an also-ran ending to their presidential ambitions, were quick to pile-on over the weekend:

Marco Rubio warned that “we cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan! We cannot be a party that does that!”

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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