Although Donald Trump said Monday that he does disassociate himself from white supremacist David Duke, critics of the GOP presidential front-runner are seizing on his reluctance to do so in a CNN interview on Sunday.
Among those critics are Florida State University students angry that Joe Gruters, Trump’s campaign manager in Florida, sits on the FSU Board of Trustees. Activists say they’ll hold a public demonstration on the FSU campus at noon Tuesday, calling for Gruters to step down from his position with the university.
Gruters is in “direct violation of University Policy by acting as a surrogate for a candidate who repeatedly puts people down based on race, religion, etc.,” FSU student Jane Reid said.
Reid is with FSU Students Against Racism. In a Facebook posting on Monday, she cited a passage from the 2015-2016 General Bulletin on Values and Moral Standards at Florida State University, as the moral impetus in calling for Gruters’ dismissal.
“Florida State University is committed to nondiscrimination in matters of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, veterans’ or marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected group status. This commitment applies in all areas with students, faculty, and other University personnel. It addresses recruiting, hiring, training, promotions, and applicable employment conditions. It is also relevant to those aspects of the University concerned with the choice of contractors, suppliers of goods and services, and with the use of University facilities. The University believes in equal opportunity practices that conform to both the spirit and the letter of all laws against discrimination.”
“I think their energy and efforts are misguided,” Gruters told FloridaPolitics.com late Monday afternoon.
“Anybody that discriminates based on religion or nationality certainly should be called out, and certainly Mr Trump does not support any discrimination,” Gruters said, referring to how Trump did disassociate himself from a Duke endorsement both before and after his comments on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mitt Romney was one of a number of Republicans who denounced Trump on Monday for his seemingly playing dumb when asked about Duke by CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
A disqualifying & disgusting response by @realDonaldTrump to the KKK. His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 29, 2016
Gruters said such comments only hurt the GOP’s chances of winning the White House this November.
“These guys are falling into the establishment trap of a last ditch effort by the political elitists to try to create controversy and try to spin the election their way, but all they’re really doing is hurting us in the general election,” he said.
In addition to being on the FSU Board of Trustees, Gruters has been criticized for his association with Trump in his roles as vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party.
Eric Miller, a State Committeeman from Martin County, wrote an open letter calling on Gruters to “respectfully” choose between his position with the RPOF or the Trump campaign two weeks ago. Gruters replied that he’s not going anywhere.