David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader and white supremacist who sparked controversy by backing Donald Trump, has made the startling admission that he would like to serve as the tycoon’s secretary of state if he becomes president.
Mr Duke, a white nationalist and former grand wizard, last week urged listeners to his radio show to vote for Mr Trump and said to do otherwise would be “treason”
“Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Mr Duke said, referring to Mr Trump’s rivals.
“I’m not saying I endorse everything about Trump, in fact I haven’t formally endorsed him. But I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”
Mr Trump then found himself at a storm of criticism when he seemingly failed to disavow Mr Duke’s endorsement when he was questioned by CNN. Eventually, he told one US broadcaster that he had “spent the weekend disavowing David Duke”.
On Wednesday, Mr Duke, 65, who once served a member of the Louisiana state legislature and for several years led the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said that while he did not agree with everything Mr Trump said, he believed he was the only candidate who would keep America out of foreign wars. He said he believed his support may have been a factor in Mr Trump seeing his numbers soar ahead of Super Tuesday, and of his successful night in which he won seven states.
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/14 On Isis:
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
2/14 On immigration:
"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
3/14 On Free Trade:
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP | Getty Images
4/14 On Mexicans:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
5/14 On China:
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?... I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
6/14 On work:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
7/14 On success:
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
8/14 On life:
"Everything in life is luck."
9/14 On ambition:
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"
10/14 On his opponents:
"Bush is totally in favour of Common Core. I don't see how he can possibly get the nomination. He's weak on immigration. He's in favour of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can't do it."
11/14 On Obamacare:
"You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high. It's virtually useless. And remember the $5 billion web site?... I have so many web sites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a web site. It costs me $3."
12/14 On Barack Obama:
"Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
13/14 On himself:
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money."
14/14 On America:
"The American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
Mr Duke, whose writing and radio broadcasts often include long attacks on Israel and “Zionist” business organisations, claimed that he had never been a white supremacist but that he sought to defend “European American” values.
“It’s no different to black people and Jewish people who defend their values,” he said.
Mr Duke said that as a member of the KKK he had sought to modernise the organisation and stressed non-violence. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, who monitors extremist groups in the US, describes Mr Duke “the most recognisable figure of the American radical right, a neo-Nazi, longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial”.
Its website adds: “In his various incarnations, Duke has been a neo-Nazi, a major Klan leader, a slick far-right politician and - most recently - a professional lecturer and author traveling the world to warn of a global Jewish conspiracy.”
Speaking from Louisiana, Mr Duke told The Independent that he would happy to serve in Mr Trump’s cabinet if he were elected and Mr Trump were to ask him.
“I’d like to be Secretary of State, traveling around the world and reaching out to all the other countries,” he said.
Mr Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to questions about Mr Duke's suggestion.