Trump fends off criticism: 'In fact, I am the least racist person'
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE declared himself the “least racist person” as he seeks to push back against a rash of criticism over his attacks on a Mexican-American federal judge.

“I am not a racist, in fact, I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered,” Trump said during an interview with The Washington Post published Friday. 

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He went on to show the Post reporter a copy of a black weekly newspaper in Cleveland sent to him by the paper’s owner, boxing promoter Don King, in which the paper endorsed Trump for president with Democrat Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders to sign pledge affirming he will run as a Democrat Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Hillicon Valley: Microsoft reveals new Russian hack attempts | Google failed to disclose hidden microphone | Booker makes late HQ2 bid | Conservative group targets Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon MORE as his running mate.

“This is Don King. Now, Don King knows racism probably better than anybody. He’s not endorsing a racist, OK?” Trump said.

King denied that he had endorsed Trump in a brief interview with the New York Daily News on Friday.

“No ... I’m endorsing the people. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, I’m a Republicrat, and I go with the will of the people. The only reason Trump exists is because of the will of the people," King said.

Trump went on to say that he doesn’t believe people view him as racist, claiming “Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHoward Schultz must run as a Democrat for chance in 2020 Trump says he never told McCabe his wife was 'a loser' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors MORE was called a racist by Obama” and saying he doesn't think Clinton is racist either.

After Bill Clinton brushed off Obama’s strong candidacy in 2008 as a “fairy tale,” Obama didn't refer to Clinton as a racist, but his aides criticized the comments as diminishing a candidacy by a black politician. 

Trump in May accused U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing cases against Trump University, of being biased because he is the son of Mexican immigrants. Since then, the candidate has mounted a significant damage-control effort to combat resounding criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Those comments have prompted rebukes from prominent Republicans including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE (Wis.) and even led to vulnerable Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE (R-Ill.) withdrawing his endorsement of Trump.

Trump indirectly addressed the controversy during a Friday speech to a forum of religious conservatives, where he promised to “bring our nation together.”

“Freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their color and the tone of his hue, should not be judged that way,” he said. “We will work together to rebuild and restore and lift up everyone. Not a certain group, everyone.”