To at least some rather sketchy Donald Trump backers, the fact that two Cuban-American conservatives are seriously figuring in the run for the White House is apparently nothing to celebrate.
A couple of Trump supporters with what critics say are racist backgrounds are putting out calls to their followers not to vote for the billionaire’s main rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, because they are Cuban-American.
Yes, they went there.
“Don’t vote for a Cuban,” warns a new robocall that was going out to Minnesota and Vermont voters in support of Trump, the Daily Beast reported earlier this week. Behind the call is a super PAC tied to a white nationalist party. Trump has previously disavowed past calls by the super PAC in Iowa, and there is no evidence linking his campaign and the PAC.
On Wednesday, white supremacist David Duke was less explicit, referring to Rubio and Cruz on an Internet broadcast he hosts only as “these people” before adding: “Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”
The former Ku Klux Klan leader’s comments were broadcast on a far-right Internet site called Rense Radio Network. The network, which was apparently dropped by a satellite provider after anti-racism activists complained, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.” Duke, who served briefly in the Lousiana legislature, gained a measure of national notoriety in the early 1990s when he ran losing campaigns for several high-profile elected offices, including the U.S. Senate, the presidency and the governorship of Louisiana.
“I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump, in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him,” Duke said on Wednesday, according to a transcript posted by BuzzFeed News. “But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”
The Daily Beast, meanwhile, posted audio of the robocall, which it says is narrated by the head of the American Freedom Party, William Daniel Johnson.
“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” the recording says. “I am afraid to be called racist. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”
Rubio’s campaign called on Trump to reject the message.
“This is as disgusting and divisive a dirty campaign trick as you'll ever see,” spokesman Alex Burgos said in a statement. “But voters, especially Cuban-American voters, will respond in the most powerful way they can: by voting for Marco Rubio for President.”
In response to a request for a reaction, the Trump campaign issued a brief statement that alluded to the robocalls but did not address the Duke comment: “Mr. Trump nor the campaign have knowledge of this group or the calls being made. We have disavowed all Super PAC's and any related activities.”
It’s well known that Trump’s candidacy has attracted open support from avowed white supremacists and anti-immigration groups. The campaign is not known to have courted any directly, but Trump’s critics say his calls for a wall on the Mexican border, the ejection of millions of undocumented immigrants and a ban on Muslim immigrants have rallied enthusiastic support from racist groups and individuals.
Though Trump has no known links to white supremacist or racist groups or invididuals, critics have recently pointed to past practices of his family’s real estate empire to suggest it harbored racist practices.
During the 1970s, after Donald Trump joined the real estate company founded by his father, Fred Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice accused the Trump Organization in a long-running case of carrying out various stratagems to keep black tenants out of their buildings. The Trumps settled the case through a consent decree that required the company to reform its leasing practices. Published news reports also documented similar alleged efforts by the Trump group to discourage blacks from leasing their units.
During the campaign, Trump has said he’s “the least racist” person.