ABC10 anchor reflects on interview with Virginia KKK leader after recent violence

President Trump defends decision to wait 48 hours to comment on Charlottesville.

President Donald Trump is defending his decision to wait two days after the hate-fueled violence in Charlottesville to call out White supremacists by name.

"I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups," said President Trump in a fiery news conference. "Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were White supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee."

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was quick to respond.

"We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive," said Speaker Ryan in a tweet. "This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."

But David Duke, the former leader of the KKK, had immediate praise for the president's comments. Duke thanked President Trump on twitter for his "honesty and courage."

"They didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis," said President Trump. "You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides."

Some will dismiss the violence in Charlottesville as a reflection of the South, but this type of hate is not confined to a city or region of the country. As a matter of fact, there's a sobering report on hate in California.

The state is home to more hate groups than any other state in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I grew up in the South. I'm convinced some of the best people are from my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, but it was once called Bombingham because of groups like the KKK. Imagine how surreal it must have been when I sat down to interview a KKK leader in Virginia. Why did I do it?

I worked in the capital city of Richmond, Virginia, for several years, and the KKK was leaving recruitment documents in people's yards. Our viewers wanted to know is this some sick joke, and if not why is the KKK recruiting in my neighborhood? This all happened during the height of the presidential election. That interview became a political football. It was even used in a campaign ad.

"The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in," said the KKK leader.

How did the interview go? The Imperial Wizard was actually kind. He basically said this is not your KKK of the 50s and 60s. He suggested it's a kinder and gentler KKK, but looking back on it now, perhaps he was just using me as a means to an end. The story was indeed about recruiting new members.

I share this with you to offer context about how we got to this point. For so long people didn't talk about this stuff, but some of these white supremacists groups have been recruiting and building their ranks for several years now. They are emboldened. They are conducting interviews and not hiding their faces. This weekend racial tensions boiled over and into the national spotlight. 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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