For more than an entire minute on Tuesday evening, Donald Trump avoided denouncing and condemning white supremacy.
During the first 2020 presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists. (Trump’s track-record includes his saying there were "very fine people" people “on both sides” in 2017 after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia).
“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 or the number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha, and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Wallace asked Trump.
Trump first sidestepped that question, saying that he mostly sees violence "from the left wing."
He then said, “I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” so Wallace responded, “Then do it, sir”.
Biden chimed in with “Do it. Say it,” as time for Trump to take a stance ticked away.
After some more back and forth, Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys is a far-right and neo-fascist organisation that admits only men as members and promotes political violence.
While this not only is not a denunciation of far-right and white supremacist nationalism, Trump’s words had the opposite affect.
On the Proud Boys' account on the social media app Telegram, the group appeared to take the statement as marching orders, according to NBC News.
The exchange went on and on as Trump pivoted to talking more about Antifa, before arguing with his opponent Joe Biden.
At one point Biden shot back saying, “Antifa is an idea, not an organisation”. (Antifa followers have appeared at anti-racism protests, but there is little evidence behind claims that members are to blame for the violence at the protests.)
Wallace cut in to ask another question and Trump was finally let off the hook after about 66 seconds of avoidance.
As journalist Yamiche Alcindor put it, “That is not a condemnation by any stretch of the imagination.”