WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Donald Trump on Thursday repudiated any support from white supremacists hours after his opponent, Hillary Clinton, tied his candidacy to hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan.
When asked by a reporter whether he wanted white supremacists to vote for him, Trump told WMUR-TV in New Hampshire he does not want to receive support from hate groups.
"This is not about hate, this is about love," Trump said. "We love our country. We want our country to come back. We want our country to be strong again."
In a speech in Reno, Nev., earlier Thursday, Clinton criticized Trump for allowing elements of the fringe right to creep into his campaign by offering a "dog whistle" via Twitter, where he has on previous occasions retweeted messages from users with white supremacist and anti-Semitic profiles. She also criticized Trump for his failure during the Republican primary to more forcefully disavow the support of David Duke, a former KKK grand wizard.
"When asked in a nationally televised interview whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump wouldn't do it," Clinton said. "Only later, again under mounting pressure, did he backtrack."
During a February interview on CNN's State of the Union, Trump said he had no knowledge of Duke's support.
"I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," Trump said. "So I don't know. I don't know -- did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."
Later, Trump more strongly addressed the Duke controversy on Twitter.
"I didn't even know David Duke endorsed me," Trump said, adding, "I disavow, OK?"
The candidates have traded accusations of racism and bigotry over the past two days, with Trump first accusing Clinton of viewing minorities solely as a base of political support while ignoring problems plaguing inner cities, such as drugs, crime and failing schools.
"Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future," Trump said at a campaign rally in Mississippi on Wednesday. "She doesn't care what her policies have done to your communities. She has no remorse. She's going to do nothing for Hispanics and African-Americans."
Clinton shot back Thursday, saying Trump's campaign has merged with the "alt-right," a political movement she linked to fringe conservatives and extremist groups like the KKK. She said Trump's campaign has "taken hate groups mainstream."