Trump-Biden: White supremacy row flares after chaotic debate

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Media signature“Proud guys, stand back and stand by” – Trump

President Donald Trump’s refusal to expressly condemn a key right-wing group has sparked outrage among opponents after a heated and chaotic US election debate.

Instead, in the televised debate with rival Joe Biden, he called on the Proud Boys group to “step back and stand by”.

Members of the Proud Boys said on social media that the comments were “historic” and a confirmation.

Mr Biden said Mr Trump “refused to turn down white supremacists”.

The first of three televised debates between the two men prior to the November 3 election sparked arguments, arguments and insults. The US media called them messy, ugly and horrible.

The commission that runs the debates said it would introduce new measures for the next two to “keep order”.

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Media signatureHow US news networks responded to the first presidential debate

Not much was learned about politics, and while a quick poll on the debate gave Mr Biden a small advantage, other opinion polls suggest that 90% of Americans have already decided who to vote and the debate may have little difference made.

BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher says if one man came out victorious it was Joe Biden as he was less affected by the food fight. Anything that resembled a substantial exchange was buried in arguments, so this was a missed opportunity for the president, he says.

Mr Biden appears to have a single-digit lead over Mr Trump, but polls in so-called battlefield states suggest this could still be close competition.

Why did the extreme right problem arise?

It was brought up by debate host Chris Wallace on the background of street violence in some cities this year, some of which flared up on the subject of police killings and racism.

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Wallace asked if the President would condemn white supremacists and tell them to resign during the demonstrations.

“Sure, I’m ready … but I would say that almost everything I see is coming from the left wing, not the right wing. I’m ready to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said.

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Mr Biden said “Proud Boys” twice when the President asked who to convict.

The President said: “Proud guys – stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what … Somebody has to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not really a problem.”

Founded in 2016, Proud Boys is a far-right, all-immigrant, all-male group with a history of street violence against left-wing opponents. A Proud Boys social media account posted the “Stand Back, Stand By” logo.

Antifa, short for “anti-fascist”, is a loose association of far-left activists who often clash with the far-right during protests.

What was the reaction like?

Joe Biden returned on the subject in a tweet Wednesday, saying, “There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to turn down white supremacists on the debate stage last night.”

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The members of the Proud Boys gather in Portland, Oregon this past weekend

In his tweet, he quoted a comment addressed to the President from an online Proud Boys forum that read, “This makes me so happy. We are ready! We are ready, sir.”

Mr Biden’s Democratic campaigner Kamala Harris told CNN, “I heard what we all heard. The President of the United States is refusing to condemn white supremacists in our Lord’s 2020 year.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said Trump’s words were “amazing” and Rita Katz of the SITE extremist watchdog said Trump “gave the white supremacists another nod”.

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President Trump has tried to take a law and order stance as President. His response in a tweet on Wednesday read: “Biden declined to use the term LAW & ORDER. There go the suburbs.”

Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN the president said “sure” when asked if he would condemn extremist groups, adding that Mr. Trump did “often, just not last night,” also in the past “did.

Mr Trump’s son Donald Jnr also said his father was “happy” to condemn such groups. “I don’t know if that was a mistake, but he talked about having her resign,” he told CBS.

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Media signature“Shut up, man” and other insults and interruptions

Republican politicians were fairly muted in their response, some arguing that Mr Trump had condemned all street violence, others said the president might have spoken wrongly or should have provided more clarity.

Mr Trump has downplayed the threat posed by white supremacy groups in the past, despite the Department of Homeland Security saying they will remain the “most persistent and deadly threat” in the United States until next year.

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The members of Proud Boys undoubtedly believed they had support from Mr Trump.

Organizer Joe Biggs wrote: “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone has to deal with Antifa … well, sir! We are ready !!”

One member said the group is already seeing an increase in new recruits.

What were the other important moments of debate?

In the 90-minute debate in Cleveland, Ohio, both candidates spoke a lot to each other. Mr Trump cut about 73 times.

The main problems included:

  • Lots of insults. Hectoring from Mr. Trump saw Mr. Biden calling the President a “clown”. He said to the President, “Are you going to shut up, man?” and later snapped “Yep on, man”
  • Mr Trump said Mr Biden “got either the lowest or almost the lowest degree in your class” and had done nothing in 47 years of politics
  • Mr Biden said Mr Trump “panicked” and “many people died” over the coronavirus epidemic. Mr Trump later tweeted that many more would have died had Mr Biden been president
  • Mr Trump defended his efforts to quickly occupy a seat on the US Supreme Court, while Joe Biden refused to respond when asked if he would try to increase the number of judges
  • When asked if he would encourage his supporters to be peaceful if the election results were unclear, Mr. Trump said, “I encourage my supporters to go to the polls and watch very closely.”
  • When Mr Trump said that Mr Biden would, at the behest of the left, be the Democratic Party on health and environmental issues, Mr Biden replied, “I am now the Democratic Party.”

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Media signatureBiden: Do you believe what he’s telling you for a moment?

What’s happening now?

The war of words after the debate continued on Wednesday.

On Twitter, Trump said Mr Biden was destroying the country, claiming the challenger wanted to fill the Supreme Court with judges, end fracking and kill the second constitutional amendment that includes the right to bear arms.

Skip @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter post

Nobody wants Sleepy Joe as a leader, including the radical left (which he lost last night!). He didn’t respect Bernie and effectively called him a loser!

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2020

End of @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter post

He said he went to Minnesota on Wednesday.

Joe Biden is on a full-day train tour of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania while his campaign also launched a digital ad attack against the president.

On his first tour stop, he said Mr. Trump “forgot the forgotten Americans he would fight for. I will never forget”.

Mr Biden added, “I will not be a Democratic President. I will be an American President.”

The other televised debates between the two candidates will take place in Florida on October 15 and in Tennessee on October 22.

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