Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday accused his rival, Republican President Donald Trump, of failing to condemn white supremacists during their chaotic first debate.
“There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night,” Biden said in a tweet.
Earlier, Biden pointed out in a retweet that the Proud Boys, a far-right group, were “ecstatic” about being
mentioned by Trump in the debate and took his remarks as a call-to-arms.
In a heated back-and-forth about racism and policing, Trump was pressed repeatedly to denounce white
supremacists and militia groups. After initially answering “sure,” Trump blamed most of the political violence in the country on left-wing groups, contradicting federal law enforcement.
“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump said. When Biden said the name of the far-right group,
Trump responded: “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by.” Members of the group hailed Trump’s words as an implicit endorsement of their violent tactics in private
social media channels, with one person saying they had already seen a flood of new recruits, the New York
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told the paper the president had meant “he wants them to knock it off.”
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, told CBS News his father may have misspoken. The first presidential debate was marked by personal attacks and cross talk.
As Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, the former vice president burst out: “Will you shut up, man?”
The tone throughout the night was acrimonious, and the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, struggled to take the reins. While some commentators argued that Wallace should have moderated the debate more effectively, Trump’s
supporters slammed Wallace for going easy on Biden. “Chris Wallace owes @realDonaldTrump and the American People an apology after the way he conducted
himself tonight!” tweeted Mike Hahn, a member of the Trump campaign’s social media team.
Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said that Wallace had “framed every question favorable
to Joe Biden.”
Trump also noted on Twitter that “Chris had a tough night” and shared a tweet by a comedian arguing that
Wallace’s performance is an example of “why the American public doesn’t trust the media.”