President Donald Trump declined to condemn white supremacist groups on Tuesday night during the first debate of the 2020 presidential election. Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to clearly and unequivocally denounce militia groups like the Proud Boys, who have instigated violence at protests around the country. Instead, the president repeatedly deflected to "far-left" and "AntiFa" groups.
"Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacist and militia groups?" Wallace asked Trump. "And to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities? As we saw in Kenosha, and as we've seen in Portland? Are you prepared to do that?" As Trump began his answer, Biden goaded him: "Do it, then. Do it." However, Trump's answer was widely seen as unsatisfactory.
NEW: Trump struggles to condemn white supremacists.September 30, 2020
"Sure, I'm willing to do that, but I would say — I would say, almost everything I see is from the left wing!" he said. "Not from the right. But look, I'm willing to — I want to see peace. You want to call them — what do you want to call them? Give me a name."
Wallace offered up "white supremacists" and "Proud Boys" — a known militia group that has sparked violence at many protests over the last four years. Trump said: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about AntiFa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem."
Many viewers felt that this response was another avoidance by Trump, who has long hesitated to condemn white supremacist groups — many of whom openly support him. This dodging goes back to 2015 when he and his campaign hesitated to rebuke the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Biden pointed out that Trump was ignoring the warnings of his law enforcement advisers.
He said "Proud Boys stand by" and I'm.... afraid to find out for what!— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) September 30, 2020
"His own FBI director said the threat comes from the white supremacists. AntiFa is an idea, not an organization. It's not a militia. That's what HIS FBI director said," Biden pointed out.0comments
The Proud Boys were the subject of a "HateWatch" post by the Southern Poverty Law Center as far back as 2017, where they were described as an "alt-right fight club." The FBI has since classified them as an extremist, white nationalist organization. The group has been associated with various acts of political violence, emphasizing white genocide conspiracy theories.
This exchange was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the debate for many viewers, and likely worked against Trump and his hopes of re-election. The 2020 presidential election is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.