Washington, 30 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of failing to condemn white supremacists during their chaotic first debate, while calling the event a “wake-up” call to the US public.
“The president of the United States conducted himself the way he did – I think it’s just a national embarrassment,” Biden said in Ohio on Wednesday, the day after the debate.
Biden slammed Trump for his “dog whistle” to white supremacy while planting “seeds of doubt” about the legitimacy of the election, after his rival questioned whether there would be widespread fraud.
The former vice president sought to reassure voters that, if he won, Trump would be forced to step down and would not be able to hang on to power.
“The American people won’t stand for it,” Biden said.
Biden – who says he decided to run for office this year in large part due to concerns about white supremacy and Trump’s failure to make an out-right condemnation of the ideology – went hard against the Republican incumbent on his comments on racist groups.
“There’s no other way to put it: the president of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night,” Biden said in a tweet.
Earlier, Biden pointed out in a retweet that the Proud Boys, a far-right group, were “ecstatic” about being mentioned by Trump in the debate and took his remarks as a call-to-arms.
In a heated back-and-forth about racism and policing, Trump was pressed repeatedly to denounce white supremacists and militia groups.
After initially answering “sure,” but failing to actually make a condemnation, Trump blamed most of the political violence in the country on left-wing groups, contradicting assessments by federal law enforcement.
“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump said. When Biden said the name of the far-right group, Trump responded: “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by.”
In private social media channels, members of the right-wing group hailed Trump’s words as an implicit endorsement, with one person saying it had already seen a flood of new recruits, the New York Times reported.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told the paper the president had meant “he wants them to knock it off.”
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, told CBS News his father may have misspoken.
The first presidential debate was marked by personal attacks and cross talk.
As Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, the former vice president burst out: “Will you shut up, man?”
The tone throughout the night was acrimonious, and the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, struggled to take the reins.
While some commentators argued that Wallace should have moderated the debate more effectively, Trump’s supporters slammed Wallace for going easy on Biden.
“Chris Wallace owes @realDonaldTrump and the American People an apology after the way he conducted himself tonight!” tweeted Mike Hahn, a member of the Trump campaign’s social media team.
Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said that Wallace had “framed every question favourable to Joe Biden.”
Trump also noted on Twitter that “Chris had a tough night” and shared a tweet by a comedian arguing that Wallace’s performance is an example of “why the American public doesn’t trust the media.”