The strange-bedfellows truism of American politics was all but redefined Tuesday when Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump – currently taking fire from his own party for the support he’s getting from the Ku Klux Klan – got a salute from Louis Farrakhan, longtime leader of the Nation of Islam.
Meanwhile, a public-opinion survey released Tuesday found that voters want Trump to pick retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, this cycle’s lone African American presidential candidate and one who is polling in the single digits, as his running mate.
Speaking at the black nationalist organization’s annual Savior’s Day in Chicago, Farrakhan told parishioners that he admires Trump because he believes the celebrity billionaire’s purportedly self-funded presidential campaign isn’t taking money from the “Jewish community.”
“[Trump] is the only member who has stood in front of [the] Jewish community and said, ‘I don’t want your money,'” Farrakhan told his followers Sunday at the Mosque Maryam in Chicago, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization.
“Anytime a man can say to those who control the politics of America, ‘I don’t want your money,’ that means you can’t control me. And they cannot afford to give up control of the presidents of the United States.” Farrakhan said in the sermon. Though he said he admires Trump’s independence, the 82-year-old leader stopped short of endorsing the first-time novice politician for president.
“Not that I’m for Mr. Trump,” he said, “but I like what I’m looking at.”
On Sunday, CNN host Jake Tapper pressed Trump about whether he’d disavow David Duke – a former Klan leader who’s active in conservative politics – and other white supremacists backing his presidential campaign. Trump at first said he didn’t know anything about Duke, then hastily disavowed him Monday under an ongoing firestorm of criticism.
The critics include House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, who backhanded Trump when speaking to reporters Tuesday.
“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices,” Ryan said.
For Farrakhan, the enemy-of-my-enemy support for Trump is nothing new: Besides calling for a separate African American state, the Nation of Islam strongly believes Jews were responsible for the slave trade and that they’re part of a vast conspiracy that controls the government, the media and the entertainment industry, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. That the NOI’s fierce brand of anti-Semitism puts them on the same side as the Klan, which also despises African Americans, is largely viewed as incidental.
Praising Trump, however, is a reversal for Farrakhan, who a few months ago suggested a White House run by the former reality show star would lead America into “the abyss of hell.”
In a January radio-show appearance, Farrakhan declared that Trump’s leadership isn’t anchored in justice and said he is “tearing away the skin of the onion of white civility,” according to video the Nation of Islam leader posted to Facebook.
As reports surface that Trump may have ordered his security team to remove a group of black students from his rally in Georgia Monday night, a national survey by Morning Consult, a media company survey, found that if Trump were to hold on and win the GOP presidential nomination, voters want him to pick Carson as his vice president
The poll showed 11 percent of Republican and right-leaning independent voters said they want a Trump-Carson ticket. Other possibilities for Trump’s running mate – GOP contenders Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey – garnered 8 percent.
Others on the people’s veep list for Trump include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team Mark Cuban and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.
On the Democratic side, 26 percent of Democratic and left-leaning independent voters suggest Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton should make Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist challenging her for the nomination, her running mate if she wins the nomination.
Ten percent of the voters want Vice President Joe Biden to join Clinton on the ticket, according to the survey. Other names the voters selected include Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Corey Booker of New Jersey; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.