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. pic.twitter.com/Q3VZTW1vUV
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 30, 2020
If you relied on the state’s largest newspaper for your only coverage of the Trump-Biden debate, you missed what many commentators saw as the major takeaway from the debacle: Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacists.
Here’s Politico’s account and the ensuing online controversy.
The stunning moment came when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was ready to condemn White supremacists and say they need to stand down during ongoing demonstrations across the country.
“Sure, I’m willing to, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said.
“Say it. Do it. Say it,” Democratic nominee Joe Biden responded, encouraging Trump to condemn White supremacists.
“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump asked Wallace. Biden could be heard twice saying, “Proud Boys.”
Trump continued: “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.”
Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right collective that the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a hate group, have been seen in their black and yellow polo shirt uniform at multiple 2020 Trump campaign rallies. Founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the group is known for its anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric and describes members as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
The Proud Boys celebrated Trump’s remark.
So there it is: Trump refused to explicitly condemn white supremacists. He even seemed to call one radical group to be ready to take up arms. The state’s largest newspaper found the exchange unworthy of mention.
The Trump spin team went to work mitigating the damage. After the debate, it hurried out information about times Trump had condemned the KKK. The debate moment was more telling about Trump’s views on race than the post-debate spin.