WI Democrats, Republicans react to Pres. Trump not condemning White supremacists during debate
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – President Donald Trump fell short of outright condemning White supremacists and militia groups when asked to do so by the first presidential debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace.
"Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups,” Wallace began asking. “Sure, President Trump replied before Wallace continued. “To say 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 specifically do that? Go ahead."
“Sure,” Trump responded. “I’m willing to do that but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.”
After some cross-talk, Wallace again presented the president to answer.
“Say it. Do it. Say it,” former Vice President Biden then said.
Trump replied, “you want to call them…what do you want to call them? Who do you want me to condemn? Give me a name?”
Wallace clarified he was asking about white supremacists and right-wing militias. Biden then suggested the right-wing extremist group Proud Boys.
"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” President Trump said. “But I'll tell you want, 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."
Democrats were appalled by the answer.
“My reaction was that it was disgraceful,” Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson told CBS 58. “That’s dangerous. I mean, this man is President of the United States and I don’t know what needs to happen for him to understand that words matter. “
The president’s answer was celebrated online by the Proud Boys group which has ties to white supremacy and anti-Semitism and has been involved in violent clashes in protests around the country.
Republicans and the Trump campaign emphasized that the president has condemned racism and right-wing extremist groups in the past.
“They were looking for this magic sentence for him to say,” Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Andrew Hitt told CBS 58. “And no matter what he would’ve said, he would’ve been criticized.”
Speaking to reporters in Washington D.C., the president said he did not know the group but again fell short of outright condemning white supremacists.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump said. “I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work.”
Cavalier Johnson said a Biden presidency would present a sharp contrast to how the current president has handled the issues of race and white supremacy.
“[Biden is] going to call for racial healing in this country,” Johnson said. “He’s going to denounce these sorts of groups in the united states and say there’s no place for hate.”