After initially refusing to denounce the white supremacist violence that rocked Charlottesville over the weekend, President Donald Trump finally did so on Monday, saying in a speech that "the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups ... are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans." The president's reference to the Ku Klux Klan gave new life to the rumor that Trump's father was supposedly a member of the KKK, an allegation that's been swirling around for years.
Unfortunately, America may never know if Trump's family had any ties to the KKK. Trump, for one, firmly denies it. Most of the first-hand evidence relating to Fred Trump's alleged involvement with the KKK comes from a batch of newspaper articles published in the 1920s about a Klan rally in Queens. But although there are many articles about the incident, they paint an incomplete picture of Fred Trump's potential relationship to the Klan, and even in totality, don't definitively answer the question of whether or not the future president's father was a member of the KKK.
One thing is clear: Trump's father was arrested at a Klan rally in Queens in 1927. This was reported in a New York Times article that year, which named the elder Trump as one of seven people arrested at the rally in question. Unlike the other six suspects, he was not charged with any crime, according to the Times story, and was quickly discharged.
Donald Trump has strenuously denied this account of events. He told the Times in 2015 that the arrest of his father "never happened," and claimed that the address that the old Times story listed for his father was incorrect, raising the possibility that this was a case of mistaken identity. However, at least two sources — Census records cited by the Times and a 1936 news story in the Long Island Daily Press — confirm that he did indeed live at that address; unless there were two Fred Trumps living at the same address in Queens, it's safe to say that this was indeed the president's father.
Beyond that, however, things become hazy. It's entirely possible, as many have noted, that Fred Trump was watching the rally but not participating in it. The fact that he wasn't charged with any crimes is significant as well, given that the six people with whom he was arrested did face charges. And even if he was marching with the Klan, that wouldn't necessarily mean he was a member of the Klan.
Having said that, there is one newspaper article from the time that gives at least some reason to suspect that Fred Trump was a Klansman. A Long Island Daily Press article from June 2, 1927 claims that seven people were arrested at the Klan rally in Queens. That's exactly what the Times article said — except the report in the Press additionally says that all seven of the arrestees were "berobed marchers," wearing Klan attire. Maddeningly, though, that article doesn't give the names of those who were arrested.
Ultimately, a few things are clear: Trump's father Fred was arrested at a Klan rally in Queens with six other people; he was not charged with a crime; and seven people wearing Klan robes at that same rally were arrested.
It seems highly unlikely that two separate groups of seven people would be arrested at the same Klan rally, which is the only scenario in which Fred Trump would not implicated as having worn a Klan robe; however, it is theoretically possible. And it's also possible that Fred Trump was wearing a Klan robe but wasn't actually a member of the klan. In truth, this incident simply wasn't reported in as detailed of a manner as it would have needed to be in order to determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether Fred Trump was a Klan member.