Let's be honest: the first presidential debate for the upcoming 2020 election, held on Sept. 29, was a disaster. President Donald Trump consistently talked over his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, argued with the moderator, and generally caused controversy, as he is wont to do. However, one moment stood out, when he declined — again — to clearly denounce white supremacists. Even after almost four years of his presidency, people were furious about Trump's comments about white supremacists at the first presidential debate.
The moment came when moderator Chris Wallace, a host for Fox News, raised the topic of race and policing in the United States. As part of the topic, Wallace directly asked Trump whether or not he was willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups like the “Proud Boys.” Instead of immediately addressing the question, Trump responded by deflecting attention to "Antifa," and labeling it a "left wing problem."
"Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence?" Wallace asked.
"Sure, I'm willing to do that, but I would say that almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing," Trump said. "Who would you like me to condemn? Who? The Proud Boys? Stand back, and stand by, but I'll tell you what, someone's gotta do something about Antifa and the left." The Proud Boys are designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which notes that they regularly spout white nationalist, misogynist, and Islamophobic ideology. The Trump 2020 campaign did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the president's remarks.
On social media, many people were horrified.
This is not the first time Trump has been slammed for a failure to explicitly denounce white supremacists. In 2017, after white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one counter-protester dead, Trump commented in defense of these groups, stating that there were “very fine people on both sides."
Biden pushed back at the president for his reluctance to directly address white supremacist activity. "[Trump] doesn't want to calm things down. Instead of going in and talking to people and saying, 'let's get everybody together to figure out how to deal with this' what does he do? He just pours gasoline into the fire," he said.
This is only the first of three presidential debates before Election Day. While clearly, the Sept. 29 debate was an unmitigated trainwreck, who knows what will happen at the next one? The second presidential debate is expected to air on Oct. 15, and the third on Oct. 22. A vice presidential debate will air on Oct. 7.