Marco Rubio defends caving to Trump: 'I give him credit' for calling Mexicans rapists to get ratings
Marco Rubio speaks to CNN (screen grab)

Former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio defended his decision to support Donald Trump after a contentious primary campaign by insisting that the presumptive nominee was not a white nationalist, but admitted that racists had been emboldened by the White House bid.

During an interview that aired on Sunday, CNN's Jake Tapper noted that Trump was being supported by "some scary dudes" like white nationalists and other "hate groups."

"It's offensive," Rubio agreed. "And not just against me, but the fact that elements like that are still involved in American politics. And traditionally a candidate would disavow that and say, 'I want nothing to do with it, I don't want them as part of my campaign.'"

"He didn't," Tapper pointed out.

"And I didn't like that," Rubio insisted. "And I said that at the time. And you know, it is what it is. Obviously, I don't believe Donald Trump is a white nationalist. I don't believe that those are his views."

"But I do think that it's unfortunate that people like that have found the ability to express themselves in this way in a campaign," he added. "And I didn't like it... I just don't really think that there's a place for that in our party and our country."

As for Trump's suggestion that Mexicans were "rapists," Rubio admitted that it was an "offensive comment."

"And by the way, highly inaccurate," Rubio observed. "But here's the trap you're in. If you respond to it, [Trump] is getting what he wants. That's why he's sometime saying this, to dominate the [news] cycle. I don't give him credit for what he said, but I give him credit for the way that he understands this stuff."

"Media is a business and it's driven by ratings, and based on your ratings is what you can charge your advertisers. And so, this content is interesting content. It's different. And it's over the top. And it draws eyeballs and ears to hear what people are saying and see it. Donald understood that."

"If you respond to it, it's just giving more fuel to the fire," Rubio concluded. "There will be even more coverage about it. If you don't respond to it then [you are] someone who is basically looking the other way. So, you're kind of in a bind."

Watch the video below from CNN, broadcast May 29, 2016.