Trump reportedly said that "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group," and "if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why."
Trump has been reluctant in the past to disavow the racists who have enthusiastically supported his campaign. He was slow to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke after being asked about him in an interview with Jake Tapper this spring. In an interview with Anderson Cooper after Hillary Clinton gave a speech this summer pointing out Trump's ties to the movement, Trump professed ignorance, saying "nobody even knows what it is.” In that interview, Trump even denied the existence of the alt-right, saying, "There is no alt-right."
Trump's soon-to-be White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, formerly ran Breitbart News and has publicly described the site as a "platform for the alt-right." In the Times interview, Trump also defended Breitbart, which has covered Trump very favorably since before he announced his candidacy.
An alt-right gathering took place this past weekend in Washington at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, the fringe think tank headed by Richard Spencer, who has emerged as one of the figureheads of the alt-right this year. After most reporters had gone home, Spencer gave a speech in which he shouted "Hail Victory" — the English translation of "Sieg Heil" — and which attendees responded to by giving Nazi salutes. Video of the incident was posted by the Atlantic. A photo also emerged on Twitter of Tila Tequila with two NPI conference attendees giving Nazi salutes at a dinner the group held the night before the conference at a restaurant in D.C.
Spencer claimed in an email to BuzzFeed News that his "hail" comments were "meant as an expression of exuberance" and "I certainly didn't salute anyone."
"Are you really not able to get irony and cheekiness?" Spencer asked.