Donald Trump says he didn’t know his immigration rhetoric echoes Hitler. That’s part of a broader pattern

Donald Trump has centered his unlikely rise from reality television star to onetime — and potentially future — president on the idea that he’s wiser than Washington’s bumbling political class, once going so far as to label himself a “very stable genius.”

But when it comes to one of history’s darkest moments, Trump is professing ignorance.

Facing criticism for repeatedly harnessing rhetoric once used by Adolf Hitler to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country,” Trump insisted he had no idea that one of the world’s most reviled and infamous figures once used similar words. The Nazi dictator spoke of impure Jewish blood “poisoning” Aryan German blood to dehumanize Jews and justify the systemic murder of millions during the Holocaust.

“I never knew that Hitler said it,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday, volunteering once again that he never read Hitler’s biographical manifesto, “Mein Kampf.”

“I know nothing about Hitler,” he insisted. “I have no idea what Hitler said other than (what) I’ve seen on the news. And that’s a very, entirely different thing than what I’m saying.”

Trump’s assertion that he knows so little about one of the 20th century’s most documented figures is notable for someone seeking the presidency, a role steeped in and shaped by history. But claiming ignorance, particularly when it comes to people who espouse racist or antisemitic rhetoric, is a tactic Trump has repeatedly deployed when aiming to distance himself from uncomfortable storylines.

After he was endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke during his winning 2016 campaign, Trump insisted he had no knowledge of the white supremacist who had run for office numerous times and is described by the Anti-Defamation League as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper in February 2016. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”

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