Politics 2020: Trump Refuses to Denounce White Supremacists

Trump Sidesteps Condemnation of White Supremacists in First Debate


Donald Trump Participates In First Presidential Debate
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Asked repeatedly to denounce violent racists and militia groups, the president deflected attention on to Antifa.

During a fractious and messy first presidential debate, President Donald Trump failed to denounce white supremacists and armed militia groups who have clashed violently with Black Lives Matters and police reform protestors this summer.

Trump, as part of the section of the debate that dealt with law and order, was assailed by Vice President Joe Biden over his infamous “fine people on both sides” comment over a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. The president was asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether he was now willing to forthrightly condemn white supremacists and militia groups who committed acts of violence across America this summer. “I would say, almost everything I see is from the left-wing,” Trump demurred. Repeatedly pressed on the point Trump replied,  “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.” Wallace continued to ask for specificity to which  Trump replied, “What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name? Proud Boys — Stand back, stand by.”

Clearly rattled by the questioning the president countered by bringing up anarchists protestors, who he dubbed Antifa, who have been involved in sporadic cases of looting and property damage. “I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem….. This is a left-wing problem.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray described Antifa as an ideology, not an organization and reiterated that white supremacists have been responsible for the most lethal violence in the U.S. in recent years.

Trump’s inability to clearly condemn white supremacists caused a huge instant backlash on social media with “white supremacists” and “Proud Boys” trending on Twitter. Many zeroed on Trump’s call for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”