Utah Sen. Mike Lee, one of a handful of GOP senators who have pointedly refused to endorse Donald Trump, told Trump’s running mate Mike Pence on Tuesday that Republicans must call the views of white supremacist David Duke “deplorable.”
The blunt message, delivered during a private meeting between the two men at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters, came as the GOP vice presidential nominee grappled with his refusal to call Duke “deplorable” — a phrase brought to the forefront last week when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton used the term to describe a swath of Trump supporters.
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“Lee emphasized that Republicans must identify David Duke’s racism as deplorable, acknowledging that he ordinarily uses terms like ‘deplorable’ to describe messages, ideas, actions, and organizations, but not people,” Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, said Tuesday.
The Utah senator also pushed the Trump campaign to be “explicit” in denouncing the so-called alt-right movement, Carroll added. The Lee-Pence powwow is one of a handful of private meetings that Pence has scheduled during his whirlwind through Washington on Tuesday; he also huddled with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a former Trump rival who has also declined to endorse the GOP nominee, on Tuesday, according to one Hill Republican aide familiar with the gathering.
In an earlier press conference with House Republican leaders, Pence again denounced Duke when pressed on why he was declining to call the white supremacist — now running for a Senate seat in Louisiana — deplorable.
“I have no idea why this man keeps coming up,” Pence told reporters. “Donald Trump and I have denounced David Duke repeatedly … the simple fact is that I am not in …