The world was watching the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Sept 29. Topics that were covered include the supreme court's empty seat, political unrest in major cities, racism in America, climate change, among others. Those who watched could agree that it was a nasty, bitter, and rude debate between the pair.
One section of the debate that caused a lot of stir on social media was about Trump's comment, or lack of comment, about white supremacy. Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Trump if he would denounce white supremacy groups, for example, the Proud Boys, and condemn their violent actions in cities of unrest.
Trump responded: "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, this is a left-wing problem."
Joe Biden egged him on to "just say it." However, instead of directly answering the question with a rejection of white supremacy and named white supremacist groups, Trump pauses briefly and diverts the subject. Arguably, this is the one time during the debate when he is left speechless.
CNN Commentator and former Obama Administration official Van Jones spoke out about it after the debate, saying, "Only three things happened for me tonight. Number one, Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. Number two, the President of the United States refused to condemn white supremacy. Number three, the Commander-in-Chief refused to condemn white supremacy, on the global stage in front of my children and everybody's families, and he was given the opportunity multiple times to condemn white supremacy. He gave a wink and a nod to a racist, Nazi, murderous organization that is now celebrating online."
On private, conservative social media channels, the Proud Boys rallied. The leader of the hate group, Joe Biggs, posted "Trump basically said to go f*ck them up! This makes me so happy." Other members wrote "I will stand down sir!!!" and "Standing by sir. So proud of my guys right now."
Some may argue that Trump simply misspoke, however, this is hard to believe. This incident during the debate combined with his previously racist comments, the hate-filled reaction he received online, and his past refusals to denounce or acknowledge white supremacy is not an accident.