February 29, 2016

The Ku Klux Klan was in the news an improbable amount in the past week. On Saturday, days after former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke encouraged supporters to vote for Donald Trump, a vicious brawl erupted at a Klan anti-immigration rally in Anaheim, California. On Sunday, Trump declined on CNN to repudiate the support of Duke and the Klan, saying, "I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists." (He had disavowed Duke on Friday, and in 2000.) The Duke/KKK part of Trump's interview with Jake Tapper starts at the six-minute mark:

By the time Trump clarified his anti–David Duke stance on Twitter later Sunday, almost all of his presidential rivals — from both parties — had criticized his refusal to disavow the KKK. Trump's CNN interview also revived interest in a 1927 report in The New York Times unearthed by Boing Boing in September, when most people still expected Trump's poll numbers to crash. The newspaper story was about a KKK rally in Queens to support "native-born Protestant Americans" being "assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City," and one of the seven people arrested in the "near-riot" that ensued was Fred C. Trump, Donald Trump's father.

When The New York Times asked Trump about the 1927 article in September, and if he'd ever heard about his father's arrest, "Trump's barrage of answers — his sudden denial of a fact he had moments before confirmed; his repeatedly noting that no charges were filed against his father in connection with the incident he had just repeatedly denied; and his denigration of the news organization that brought the incident to light as a 'little website' — shows his pasta-against-the-wall approach to beating down inconvenient story lines," said Jason Horowitz. You can read Horowitz's interview with Trump at The New York Times. Peter Weber

11:23 a.m. ET

Comparing President-elect Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler is nothing especially new. Yet as the days wind down before Inauguration Day, comedian Tina Fey told David Letterman in an interview published by The Hollywood Reporter that she wants people to do two things before the year is over: "Watch Idiocracy by Mike Judge and read [Nazi filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl's 800-page autobiography [Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir]."

Pressed by Letterman on that curious second recommendation, Fey elaborated:

Fey: [Riefenstahl] grew up in Germany. She was in many ways a brilliant pioneer. She pioneered sports photography as we know it. She's the one who had the idea to dig a trench next to the track for the Olympics and put a camera on a dolly. But she also rolled with the punches and said, "Well, he's the fuhrer. He's my president. I'll make films for him." She did some terrible, terrible things. And I remember reading [her book] 20 years ago, thinking, "This is a real lesson, to be an artist who doesn't roll with what your leader is doing just because he's your leader."

Letterman: My impression of this woman is that she was the sister of Satan.

Fey: She was in many ways. But what she claimed in the book was, "He was the president, so what was I supposed to do?" And I feel a lot of people are going to start rolling that way. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Fey also has some thoughts about how comedy is highlighting Trump's "bad management skills." Head over to The Hollywood Reporter to read the full interview. Jeva Lange

10:30 a.m. ET

Is Time secretly trolling Donald Trump with its Person of the Year cover? Some people think so. After the magazine announced the designation for the president-elect early Wednesday morning, Twitter users began to notice sneaky design choices that draw not-so-flattering comparisons:

Then there is that other person of the year:

And while we're at it, doesn't the triangle formed by the space between the arms of the "Y" in "year" looks suspiciously like an inverted Illuminati pyramid? The truth is out there, people. Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET

America's longest-serving governor is reportedly leaving his post to become U.S. ambassador to China. Multiple sources have reported that President-elect Donald Trump has offered Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) the position, and that Branstad has accepted.

Already, Trump has ruffled feathers in China by speaking over the phone last week to the president of Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of the mainland, and the U.S. has long avoided officially recognizing Taiwan as independent of China. The president-elect was also critical of China throughout the presidential election, and he continued his critique Sunday on Twitter, prompting several Chinese state media outlets to publish disapproving editorials.

Branstad's appointment, however, may "help to ease trade tensions between" the U.S. and China, Reuters reported. Branstad has called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "long-time friend," and Xi has paid a visit to Iowa. When rumors of Branstad's appointment surfaced Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called Branstad an "old friend" of the country and said China would "welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations," Bloomberg reported.

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes has not confirmed reports, which he called "premature." If Branstad were to leave his post as governor after six terms, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would likely assume the role, becoming Iowa's first female governor. Becca Stanek

9:43 a.m. ET

While two-thirds of Americans think President-elect Donald Trump needs to draw a clear line between his business and his presidential duties, most don't think he needs to resort to selling his business to do so. A Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday revealed that 69 percent of Americans "believe it goes too far to force him and his family to sell their business empire to avoid conflicts of interest." Only 26 percent think Trump should sell his business.

Many experts, however, think Trump needs to do more than just hand his business over to his children if he wants to steer clear of potential conflicts of interest. In an editorial published last month, The Wall Street Journal argued Trump's should "liquidate his stake" in the Trump organization, otherwise "political damage to a new administration could be extensive." Bloomberg View editor Tim O'Brien also made the case for why Trump should sell his business — a move O'Brien argued would be surprisingly easy to make.

At this point, 51 percent of Americans say they're confident Trump will "put the nation's best interests ahead of his family's finances when he deals with foreign leaders." Trump is planning a Dec. 15 news conference to discuss the topic, and he's already indicated on Twitter that he'll be leaving his "great business in total" to focus on being commander-in-chief, though selling doesn't seem to be part of the plan.

The Bloomberg poll was conducted among 999 Americans from Dec. 2-5. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

9:27 a.m. ET

Reporter Asma Khalid covered the intersection of demographics and politics for NPR during the 2016 presidential campaign, a job that became increasingly difficult as an identifiably Muslim woman. "Through tears, I told [my editor] that if I had known my sheer existence — just the idea of being Muslim — would be a debatable issue in the 2016 election, I would never have signed up to do this job," Khalid writes in a powerful essay describing her experience on the campaign trail.

Khalid, who grew up in Indiana, goes on to explain that her ability "to [make] white folks feel comfortable" was one of the most valuable tools for her work:

So, for example, whenever the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at a GOP event, regardless of whether I was balancing a laptop on my knees, a notebook in one hand and a microphone in the other, I instinctively stood up.

I noticed — sometimes — my fellow journalists didn't stand; they would finish the email they were writing. But I also knew I couldn't afford to give the people in the room any more reason to doubt me.

Later, with some of these same voters, I would share stories about how the pledge was recited every week in my school. And they would trust me a little bit more than before. [NPR]

But while "I always tried to understand their fears," Khalid writes, "so many times, this empathy felt like a one-way street." Read her entire essay, including the incident that made her realize empathy isn't always reciprocated, at NPR. Jeva Lange

8:33 a.m. ET

When Donald Trump was given the designation of being Time's Person of the Year on Wednesday morning, he gushed about the "great honor," saying, "I've been lucky enough to be on the cover [of Time] many times this year, and last year."

As it turns out, Time's Trump covers tell their own sort of story — one that reflects Trump's unexpected victory on Nov. 8 and the about-face many critics have had to execute in order to take the former reality show host seriously as the next president of the United States.

It only takes three covers of Time to get the picture. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET

Pakistan International Airlines reports that one of its planes "disappeared" after it took off Wednesday afternoon from the northern city of Chitral on its way to Islamabad. The plane had more than 40 people on board and lost contact with the civil aviation authority around 4:30 p.m. local time, The Independent reports.

Local media reports that the plane crashed near a village and that rescuers are attempting to make their way to the site. Pakistan's interior ministry has reportedly dispatched a team of forensic experts who work with DNA to identify bodies. Jeva Lange

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