PBS host Tavis Smiley grilled Larry King on Thursday in an effort to get King to try to square his impression of longtime friend Donald Trump with the real estate mogul’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric.
“This is your show, but I want to ask you: what do you think accounts for these things coming out of the mouth of a guy you’ve known for 30 years?” Smiley asked his Ora.TV counterpart.
“I think he’s in a runaway campaign where he finds himself ahead — maybe surprisingly — and he’s saying things that will appeal to the racist element,” King said. “I mean, I can’t get into his skin –”
“But what does that say about the man if he does things that he finds expedient which are an anathema to what you say he really is?” Smiley countered.
“I can only say since I personally like him and I don’t like a lot of things that are happening, other politicians have done the same — not quite to this extreme,” King said. “Mitt Romney played to the right when he was in fact part of the center. They all do that.”
Smiley recalled his recent argument with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly — who also insists that Trump is not a racist — that led him to call the Factor host a “race-baiter” and the GOP presidential candidate a “racial arsonist.”
“The Bill that I know ain’t the Bill that I saw on TV this week,” he told King.
“Is Bill playing a character?” King asked.
Watch the exchange, as aired on Thursday, below.