An unsolicited statement of support engenders no duty upon the recipient completely regardless of the nature of the endorser. Any attempt to get a political figure to renounce or to ‘refuse’ (as if such thing were possible after the endorsement has been made) a statement of support or an endorsement or to denounce the endorser is one of two things:
- a cynical ploy to gin up support or to divide/discourage the opponent’s support, or
- a sincere, but poorly reasoned and utterly unwarranted, belief that an unsolicited statement of support or endorsement engenders a moral duty (at least under certain circumstances).
Donald Trump should not have responded to calls for him to denounce David Duke (and Duke’s endorsement) by releasing such a denouncement[^1]; instead, Trump should have done four things:
- highlighted that there is a freedom of speech in the US (enshrined in the First Amendment), and that such freedom entails a right to support whatever candidate one wishes[^2] (i.e., Duke can support whomever he pleases);
- pointed out that he has no duty to reject, refuse, or disown any unsolicited endorsement, that such a standard is ludicrous, and that it is hypocritical (see, infra, 4)[^3];
- stated that the entire issue is made up to rile a part of the Left base that is impervious to logic and sees racism everywhere, and that Hillary Clinton is manipulating those people for political gain, nothing more; and
- reminded the media and its viewers that Clinton, Obama, and many others have been endorsed by terrible human beings and organizations, but have neither denounced such individuals and organizations, rebuffed such endorsements, nor been called upon to do so by the mainstream media[^4].
Trump should consistently and relentlessly attack Clinton using these points (mostly 3 and 4). Clinton is weak when it comes to trustworthiness and honesty, and driving home the twin points that she believes she can cynically manipulate a large section of her Left base[^5] and that she is a hypocrite who uses her media allies to attempt to hold others to a standard from which she falls far short[^6].
As for the Right, shame on every commentator who calls himself a Conservative yet called for, essentially, forced speech. One has no more duty to denounce an unsolicited endorsement than one has to refute the drug-fueled ramblings of a hobo proclaiming the end of the world from his street corner. Even if that hobo points to you as you pass and declares you the AntiChrist set to bring Armageddon, you still have no duty to refute or to denounce. In fact, few would claim a general duty to refute false claims (whether or not issuing such refutations is wise is another matter). Should Clinton refute that she is a lizard person from some far-distant world, that she is here to subjugate the human race, and that her meat-suit is ill fitting? By what possible logic does one type of unsolicited statement (e.g., an endorsement) magically engender duties that other types (e.g., accusations) do not? The answer, of course, is that no unsolicited statement engenders upon the target a duty of any kind.
It may be wise, under certain circumstances, to quell rumors or to refute accusations, maybe even to denounce endorsements, but it is neither a legal nor a moral duty.
[^1]: This is especially true as it reads like Trump acquiescing to media demands, which is the antithesis of his usual play (i.e., attacking the media).
[^2]: Certain restrictions may apply. Please see Constitution and Supreme Court precedent for further details.
[^3]: If he wished, Trump could also offer a backhanded rebuke to Duke via rhetorical device. e.g., "I have no more duty to denounce an endorsement by David Duke than I would have to denounce an endorsement by a heat-addled street preacher standing astride his soap box."
[^4]: Attacking the media (who completely deserve the condemnation) works for Trump just as it works for many on the Right, he should continue to do so.
[^5]: Nevermind the fact that she has been doing, currently is doing, and will continue to do just that.
[^6]: Essentially, the "Queen Hillary" trope: "rules for thee, but not for me" and "rules are for little people".