Protest against Trump's Florida campaign chairman fizzles out
A protest that was supposed to demand Donald Trump's campaign chairman in Florida resign from his Florida State University position never got off the ground on Tuesday.
Just a few students showed up to the rally that had been billed as a movement to demand the resignation of Joe Gruters, a member of the FSU board of trustees who is also one of Trump's top campaign officials in the state. The rally had been advertised as a response to Trump's slow reaction to condemning support from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan during a television interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
Flyers promoting the event did not name any students or organizations backing the protest.
"He is in direct violation of University Policy by acting by acting as a surrogate for a candidate who repeatedly puts people down based on race, religion, etc," a flying promoting the rally.
FSU sophomore Jane Reid, from Sarasota, was one of the few to show up with sign in hand demanding Gruters be fired. She said Gruters impartiality is in question by serving as FSU trustee and Trump's campaign chairman.
Gruters, of Sarasota, said he is not surprised that the rally was a dud. He said Trump's condemnation of the KKK is "a none issue that is being fabricated by the establishment," which is trying to beat him in the GOP primary.
"He disavowed it," Gruters said in defending Trump. "He didn't understand what he was being asked. Once he did, he completely disavowed it. This guy doesn't have a racist bone in his body."
On Sunday, Trump drew fire after he was asked by Tapper whether he would disavow support from Duke and other white supremacist groups that are supporting his campaign.
"Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK?" Trump answered during the interview.
Trump was asked three times about whether he'd distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan -- but never did.
Trump on Monday said he had a bad earpiece during the interview and simply could not hear Tapper's question.
"I could hardly hear what he's saying," Trump said in a television interview with NBC on Monday.
Gruters said he suspects one of the rival campaigns thought they could fire up students on the issue.
Gruters has been member of the FSU board of trustees since May 2011, after Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to replace former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.
In October, Trump picked Gruters, the current Sarasota County Republican Party chairman, and Susan Wiles, Scott's 2010 campaign manager, to be his co-chairman of his Florida campaign team.