Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been condemned for refusing to immediately reject an endorsement from a former Ku Klux Klan leader.
The situation was not helped when later the same day he tweeted a quote from the former fascist leader of Italy, Benito Mussolini.
Mr Trump failed to reject or disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, despite being asked about it repeatedly.
The conversation occurred live on CNN‘s State of the Union TV show.
He has since tweeted that he did disavow Mr Duke several days ago, but he has still drawn widespread condemnation from across the Republican movement.
When CNN‘s Jake Tapper asked Mr Trump about the endorsement, a back and forth ensued:
Donald Trump: “Well, I have to look at the group; I mean I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”
Jake Tapper: “The Ku Klux Klan …”
Donald Trump: “But you might have groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”
Jake Tapper: “Okay, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here but …”
Donald Trump: “Honestly, I don’t know David Duke, I don’t believe I’ve ever met him, I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him, and I just don’t know anything about him.”
Fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz rebuked Mr Trump for the exchange.
“This is really sad Donald Trump, you’re better than this,” he said.
“We should all agree racism is wrong. The KKK is abhorrent.”
Mr Trump is also under fire for retweeting a quote from fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
The tweet said, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
It was a retweet from the account @ilduce2016, a parody account set up last year by the website Gawker to troll Mr Trump.
The profile photo on the fake account is a mash-up of Mussolini’s face, with Mr Trump’s hair.