A national hate-group watchdog said on Wednesday that the real estate mogul Donald Trump has "white nationalist positions" on Latino immigrants, whether he considers himself a white nationalist or not.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that monitors hate groups, told The Huffington Post that former White House communications director and three-time presidential aspirant Pat Buchanan was the last presidential candidate to appeal to white supremacist groups in a similar way.
Trump, who is running for president as a Republican, has attracted the support of a number of prominent white supremacists, including David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
An edited transcript of HuffPost's conversation with Potok is below. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Potok's remarks.
When was the last time a presidential candidate or other contender for national office got traction with white supremacists the way Trump has?
There is no question we have not seen anything like this since Pat Buchanan. Those two have a lot in common. I am not sure if Trump views himself as a white nationalist, but he has white nationalist positions. When he calls Mexicans rapists and murderers, he is dog-whistling in a very clear way to this far-right constituency. Buchanan and Trump are appealing to the same constituencies.
In terms of public figures, [Fox Business host] Lou Dobbs had some of the same appeal, but among politicians, Buchanan is really the last person to have the effect Trump is having.
The things being said about Trump now in the white nationalist world were being said about Buchanan. It was not clear if he was quite on their side, but they were very pleased with the positions he took.
And it is not just the anti-immigrant positions. Trump is a protectionist in the very same way. Virtually all white nationalists believe America needs to be walled off from the rest of the world.
In some ways Trump has taken an even more extreme position than many white nationalists. I have never heard of white nationalists call for the deportation of the U.S. citizens born to people who came here illegally.
You say it is unclear if Trump himself has white nationalist views.
Whether or not he is a white nationalist through and through is irrelevant. He is an actor, a TV star like Glenn Beck who is willing to say things that are incredibly poisonous and incredibly damaging to the country.
Is it fair to say Buchanan was even more careful than Trump in what he said?
Yes, Buchanan was more careful than Trump. Like him or hate him, Buchanan was an intellectual. That cannot be said about Trump. This is a guy who says he is going to study foreign policy by watching TV shows.
Let me say plainly: I think Trump’s comments about Latino immigrants are flat-out racist. I am not sure how you can see it any other way.
These hate groups embracing Trump also hate black people, Jews and gay people. Is immigration now their top priority?
Between 2000 and 2008, we saw bona fide hate groups like the Klan and neo-Nazi formations abandon all their rhetoric against black people, gay people and Jews in order to focus 100 percent on quote-unquote illegal aliens. The reason is pure opportunism. They simply understood that their normal rhetoric would not have broader resonance at all. The far right was very focused on illegal immigration until 2008, and then after [President Barack] Obama’s election, things began to turn in a somewhat different direction. They started to include a broader critique, or broader fear, that white people were being displaced by what was happening -- that Obama represented something that was fundamentally un-American and foreign to the core of the country.
Some people have compared Trump’s rise to the ascent of far-right parties in Europe. They both pair a kind of racially infused anti-immigration position with more centrist, or even left-leaning, domestic economic positions. How much of this is economically motivated?
These people are responding to huge demographic changes, but also an unstable economy and a lot of cultural changes like rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage. As our country transitions for the first time to a truly multicultural democracy, we are living through a tremendous backlash, and Trump really represents that.
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