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Donald Trump declines to condemn KKK leader

Last Updated Feb 28, 2016 3:15 PM EST

When he was given the opportunity to denounce Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on a political talk show on Sunday, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump declined to take it.

During the CNN interview, "State of the Union" host Jake Tapper asked the billionaire: "Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?"

Trump told CNN: "I don't know anything about David Duke, okay? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists."

Last week Duke, a white nationalist and a former KKK grand wizard, urged his radio show listeners to vote for Trump, saying that a ballot cast against the New Yorker would be "treason to your heritage." He also called Trump's candidacy an "insurgency that is waking up millions of Americans" and prompted his fellow nationalists to volunteer for the campaign.

Shortly after Duke announced his support, the Anti-Defamation League urged Trump to "distance" himself from the prominent Klan figure.

But on Sunday, when pressed again if he would condemn Duke, Trump responded that he'd "have to look at the group."

"You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them," he said. "And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong."

Tapper questioned: "The Ku Klux Klan?"

"But you may have groups in there that are totally fine," the GOP candidate shot back. "And it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know."

Trump's final words on the subject: "Honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I have ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him."

A look back at Trump's involvement in politics, however, indicates that he had been, in fact, familiar with Duke in the past.

In 2000, after Trump decided he would not launch a presidential campaign as part of the Reform Party, he issued a statement that derided the KKK figurehead.

"The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Pat] Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani," Trump said. "This is not company I wish to keep."

And during a Friday press conference, Trump had indicated that he would "disavow" Duke.

Trump also made waves Sunday morning for another race-related comment during a separate interview with Fox News.

When asked about a court case involving fraud claims against Trump University currently playing out in New York, the White House hopeful said the judge presiding over the issue "has been extremely hostile to me."

"I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border," Trump said. "Very, very strong on the border. And he has been extremely hostile to me."

He added of the judge: "Now, he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me. I said it loud and clear."

When asked by Fox News why he bothered to bring up the judge's ethnicity, Trump blamed it on the television host, Chris Wallace.

"Because you always bring it up, Chris," Trump accused. "Because you always say how the Hispanics don't like Donald Trump. You always bring it up in your poll numbers. You say that Hispanics don't like Donald Trump. You're the one that brings it up."

Trump's recent antics are providing ample fodder for his rivals -- particularly Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

On Sunday, both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio chimed in on the "abhorrent" KKK and Trump's lackluster response.

And Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders weighed in Sunday via Twitter:

Rival Hillary Clinton also retweeted Sanders' post.

Even Trump's surrogates are having a hard time defending Trump's campaign and presidential platforms.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump on Friday and who has since hit the trail to stump for his one-time rival, admitted in a television interview that "of course there are things I disagree with" Trump about.

"Donald Trump and I are not going to agree on every issue," Christie told ABC News.

He added, for instance, that "the idea of banning all Muslims from this country is ridiculous, and the reason it's ridiculous is because you don't need to do that to make America safe."

"When Donald Trump said that, he was dead wrong. And he's dead wrong now," Christie said.

The former 2016 candidate also shrugged off questions about how Trump would accomplish his campaign promises, particularly border wall that the businessman has repeatedly said he would force Mexico to pay for.

"The fact is that he's going to have to answer that question," Christie said. "He will."