DETROIT – Of the many controversial moments in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, the one that’s gotten the most attention today had to do with race relations.
President Donald Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he was willing to take a stand against racist groups including white supremacists. Here was the president’s unedited response:
Chris Wallace/Moderator: “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups 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.”
President Donald Trump: "I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.
Chris Wallace/Moderator: "So what are you saying?
President Donald Trump: “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
Chris Wallace/Moderator: “Then do it, sir.”
President Donald Trump: “What do you want to call them. Give me a name. Give me a name. Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?”
Chris Wallace/Moderator: “White Supremacists.”
President Donald Trump: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. 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.”
The “Stand back and stand by” comment and refusal to condemn white supremacists immediately sparked concern.
When these kinds of issues crop up, there’s concern, but to Detroit’s African-American leadership, it’s too little, too late.
“He said ‘stand back and stand by.’ To do what? And get your stuff together in case I need you to get busy?” said NAACP President Anthony Wendel. "And so he has sent a clear signal out to the white supremacists he’s with them and I got your back.”
Also outraged by the debate was Rev. Horace Sheffield who said Trump sidestepped the white supremacist question.
“The President knows he has a narrow sliver of the American public and he couldn’t cut that any further or he’d lose even more of the support that he has," Sheffield said. "So he plays to the worst emotions of the American Public.”
In the Rose Garden Wednesday, the president addressed the Proud Boys, a hate group labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
“I don’t know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do its work," Trump said.
When asked if he was OK with white supremacist support or if he would denounce them, Trump said that his campaign is focused on “law and order.”
“I have always denounced any form, any form of any of that, you have to denounce it," Trump said. "But Joe Biden has to say something about antifa.”
When asked if Sheffield believes the president, he said absolutely not.