David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has issued a celebratory statement following President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Duke has repeatedly taken credit for Trump’s rise, especially after the president initially declined to disavow the KKK leader’s support.
On Jan. 20, shortly after Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the U.S., Duke took to social media to describe the event as a victory for him and his cause for white supremacy.
"We did it!" Duke tweeted out. "Congratulation Donald J. Trump President of the United States of America!"
Duke had also taken credit for Trump’s victory on election night, asserting that white nationalists like himself had helped propel the president into the White House, according to the Independent.
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"This is one of the most exciting nights of my life," Duke tweeted out on Nov. 8, 2016. "Make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!"
Duke had been a vocal advocate for Trump’s campaign throughout the 2016 presidential race, even stumping for the business mogul in one of his robocalls last August during his ultimately unsuccessful bid for a Louisiana Senate seat, according to Buzzfeed News.
"It’s time to stand up and vote for Donald Trump for president and vote for me, David Duke and the U.S. Senate," Duke said. The Trump campaign swiftly denounced the robocall.
Trump himself had been less quick to disavow Duke’s support in February 2016, when he insisted that he had never heard of the KKK leader.
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"Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?" Trump told CNN. "I don’t know anything about … white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know."
In 2000, Trump had previously publicly cited Duke’s affiliation with the Reform Party as a reason why he would not run for president under that party's platform.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump disavowed Duke’s support, attributing his initial refusal to a faulty earpiece causing him to mishear the question.
In August 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Trump for having support from white supremacist groups, citing Duke as an example.
"Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment," Clinton said, according to The Huffington Post. "But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone -- until now."
In September 2016, Duke asserted that Trump’s campaign rhetoric and electoral success was a boon for the white nationalist movement.
"The fact that Donald Trump’s doing so well, it proves that I’m winning," Duke told the Los Angeles Times. "I am winning."
The former KKK leader added that he resented any perception that his movement was appropriating the Trump campaign’s popularity, asserting that his work had paved the way for the business mogul.
"Trump happened because of us, not the other way around," Duke said.