Republican Donald Trump said he will return a donation from white nationalist leader and author William Daniel Johnson, who gave $250 to his presidential campaign.
The Hill reported today that Trump was asked about the donation at a New Hampshire town hall. “I would certainly return it if you think it is appropriate,” Trump replied. “I would return it. Don't be so angry, I don't even know who he is.”
Video of the exchange was posted to YouTube by Right Side Broadcasting:
As Media Matters reported, Johnson donated $250 to the Trump campaign in September. He leads the American National Super PAC, which has been robocalling Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire to praise Trump's anti-immigrant positions.
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Johnson wrote a book under a pseudonym in which he advocated “the repeal of the 14th and 15th amendments and the deportation of almost all nonwhite citizens to other countries. Johnson further claimed that racial mixing and diversity caused social and cultural degeneration in the United States.” Johnson, who wants “a white ethno-state, a country made up of only white people,” regularly appears in white nationalist media.
Last week, People For the American Way called on Trump to return the donation, noting that “cashing checks from those pushing an explicitly racist agenda is unacceptable.”
In recent months, several media outlets have documented how white nationalist figures have been supporting Trump's campaign. His candidacy has also been a fundraising engine for white nationalist media websites, which have praised Trump for spurring “unprecedented interest in” their ideology and putting their ideas “firmly in the mainstream.”
UPDATE: People For the American Way (PFAW), which asked Trump the question, responded to his statement by saying it's “a good first step, but Trump should follow up by renouncing the racist policies he's been espousing on the campaign trail.” From PFAW President Michael B. Keegan:
“We're very glad to hear that Donald Trump responded to public pressure and will return the contribution from self-described white nationalist William Daniel Johnson. This is a good first step, but Trump should follow up by renouncing the racist policies he's been espousing on the campaign trail. Xenophobia and racism should have no place in any campaign, but we've seen far too much of it during the 2016 Republican presidential primary.”
UPDATE 2: In response to a request for comment from Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp, Johnson said via email, “Please understand that I support Donald Trump. He does not support me. Mr. Trump is forthright and honest in his campaign. He is not returning my contribution just for show. This act demonstrates that he is not a racist or a white supremacist (and neither am I, by the way).”