Home featured Trump wouldn’t categorically denounce white supremacists. Members of the far-right Proud Boys...

Trump wouldn’t categorically denounce white supremacists. Members of the far-right Proud Boys are celebrating.

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Trump Refuses to Condemn White Supremacists

President Trump dodged a question from the moderator Chris Wallace about whether he would directly condemn violence by white supremacist and militia groups at protests.

“You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out antifa and other left-wing —” “That’s right.” “— extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups —” “Sure.” “— and to say that 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.” “Sure, I’m willing to do that, but —” “Then do it.” “Go ahead, sir.” “I would say, I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” “So what are you, what are you saying —” “I’m willing to do anything — I want to see peace.” “Then do it, sir.” “Say it. Do it. Say it.” “You want to call them — what do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name.” “White supremacists and —” “Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?” “Proud Boys.” “Who? “White supremacists and right-wing militia.” “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 —” “His own F.B.I. director said the threat comes from white supremacists. Antifa’s an idea, not an organization —” “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” “— not a militia. That’s what his F.B.I, his F.B.I. director has said.” “Well then, you know what? He’s wrong.”

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President Trump dodged a question from the moderator Chris Wallace about whether he would directly condemn violence by white supremacist and militia groups at protests.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump refused to categorically denounce white supremacists on Tuesday night, diverting a question about right-wing extremist violence in Charlottesville, Va., and Portland, Ore., into an attack on left-wing protesters.

“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 in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked the president.

“Sure. I’m willing to do that,” said Mr. Trump, but quickly added, “Almost everything I see is from the left wing. Not from the right wing.”

When Mr. Wallace pressed on, the president asked, “What do you want to call them?”

“White supremacists and right-wing militias,” the moderator replied, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. mentioned the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”

When Mr. Biden pointed out that Mr. Trump’s own F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, had said that antifa was an idea, not an organization, the president replied, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” (Mr. Wray also said this month that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, had made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats.)

The president’s words prompted celebration by members of the Proud Boys. Within minutes, they were posting in private social media channels, calling the president’s comments “historic.” In one channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram, a private messaging app, group members called the president’s comment a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics.

In another message, a member commented that the group was already seeing a spike in “new recruits.”

Twitter and Facebook both suspended the Proud Boys from their platforms in 2018. Since then, the group has continued to expand its numbers on other social media platforms, and has become more visible at protests.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden sent a different message to the Proud Boys: “Cease and desist.”

“My message to the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist,” Mr. Biden said in Alliance, Ohio, where he was on a campaign swing. “That’s not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans.”

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