After repeatedly calling for an apology from Hillary Clinton for her remarks that “half” of Donald Trump supporters are a “basket of deplorables,” Trump’s running mate refused to say Monday whether Trump should apologize for his lengthy “birther” crusade against President Obama.
“We’re just not talking about that issue. It’s a 4-year-old issue,” Mike Pence told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, later adding that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
“It’s not what the American people are talking about, it really isn’t,” he said.
Pence also refused to say whether he would call former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who has embraced Trump’s presidential campaign, “deplorable.”
“I’m not in the name-calling business,” Pence said, while arguing that the campaign already made clear it did not want Duke’s support.
The Trump campaign has pounced on the “deplorables” remark Clinton made Friday at a fundraiser, with Trump condemning the comment in a speech Monday and the campaign releasing a new ad centered on the remark that it says will air on television.
Clinton partially walked back the remark Saturday, saying that she regretted saying that the “deplorables” made up “half” of Trump’s supporters. But in a statement released by her campaign, she doubled down on the notion that Trump has “given a national platform to hateful views and voices.”
That clarification wasn’t good enough for Pence, who called the original line “deeply offensive.”
“She has insulted millions of Americans. And her answer to that is to regret the math that she used,” Pence said. “She has not apologized for doing this, she has not retracted this statement, and frankly, we really question her ability to campaign across this country and reach out to hurting Americans having expressed this statement and not apologize for it without qualifications.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Pence was also asked about Trump’s lavish praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the assessment Trump gave last week that Putin is a stronger leader than Obama.
“That was not an endorsement of Vladimir Putin. That was an indictment of the weak and feckless leadership that President Obama and then-Secretary Clinton had brought to the world stage,” Pence said. “The American political system is superior than the Russian political system in every way. We just simply need a President of the United States who will command the respect of the world and lead with American strength, and that will be Donald Trump.”