The Trump campaign won't even call David Duke "deplorable": Mike Pence says he is "not in the name calling business"

Pence's comment illustrates how Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comments was never a gaffe, but rather a trap

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 12, 2016 10:09PM (EDT)

When Hillary Clinton told a room full of wealthy donors and reporters in New York that "half of Donald Trump's supporters" can be described as a "basket of deplorables," it was hardly a gaffe. Despite later apologizing for overgeneralizing in her use of the 50 percent figure, Clinton appeared to maintain her position that the Republican presidential nominee has a solid core of supporters who openly flaunt their racism, bigotry and homophobia because her use of the controversial term is actually a political ploy meant to ferret out some of the most vile Trump supporters while keeping the Trump campaign on defense.

Clinton first used the adjective deplorable, meaning to deserve strong condemnation, in an interview with an Israeli television station last week. Following up on her campaign strategy to highlight the role the so-called alt-right plays in Trump's campaign, at the risk of amplifying the fringe movement, Clinton said that some Trump supporters are, “what I call the deplorables; you know, the racists and the, you know, the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists.”

After saying essentially the same thing in front of American journalist on Friday, the group of largely white males that make up U.S. political punditry worked themselves into a tizzy over Clinton's blunt assessment of some American voters, leading Trump to call the remark Clinton's biggest political mistake of the campaign.

But on Monday, Trump vice presidential running mate Mike Pence quickly came to realize the masterful strategy behind Clinton's so-called gaffe.

"[Clinton] 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 nationalist, who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?" CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked the Indiana Governor Monday afternoon.

"As I’ve told you the last time I was on, I'm not 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," Pence responded, looking to avoid the question.

But Blitzer wouldn't let up: "You called him a deplorable. You would call him a deplorable?"

"No," Pence said, refusing to denounce the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a Trump supporter, as "deplorable."

"I'm not in the name-calling business, Wolf, you know me better than that," Pence offered instead.

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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