U.S. President Donald Trump denounced white supremacy and the far-right extremist group, Proud Boys, on Thursday evening after failing to do so during the presidential debate.
“I condemn the Proud Boys,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News.
He also condemned white supremacy.
“If I say it a hundred times it won’t be enough, because it’s fake news,” he added.
During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump declined to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups when asked to do so by the debate moderator, and instead opted to tell the Proud Boys – a far-right extremist group – to “stand by.”
The statement was widely interpreted as a signal of the president’s support, and critics argued that it was a dog whistle for racist violence.
Earlier on White House on Thursday insisted that President Donald Trump denounced the far-right Proud Boys at this week’s presidential debate, saying that his comment that the group’s members should “stand back and stand by” had been misinterpreted.
During a news conference, however, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had been trying to tell Proud Boys members to “stand down,” adding that he had explicitly condemned white supremacy in the wake of the debate.
“The President specifically, verbatim was asked yesterday ‘white supremacy, do you denounce them?’ To which he responded, ‘I have always denounced any form of that,’” McEnany said, quoting Trump.
Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden accused Trump on Wednesday of failing to condemn white supremacists.
“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.
Trump supporters, however, argue that Trump had been trying to discourage the Proud Boys with his comments.
Trump’s campaign firmly opposes any rejigging of the rules for debates, after a chaotic first event saw a flurry of proposals to tweak the format.
“There should not be any changes to what has been agreed to and set out,” Jason Miller, a top adviser on the campaign, said in a press call on Thursday.
The Republican candidate’s campaign blasted the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group that hosts the events, claiming its members have a history of anti-Trump statements.
Bill Stepien, the campaign manager, noted that the Trump team and advisers to Democratic nominee Joe Biden have negotiated the terms of the three debates in advance, as has been tradition, insisting that those terms stay in place.
“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?” Trump said in a tweet.
Trump’s team said the Biden campaign is requesting that the moderator be able to cut off the candidates’ microphones.
The format of the second debate is a town hall style, meaning voters in the crowd get to ask the questions. The first debate was moderated by journalist Chris Wallace.
Wallace told Fox News the town hall format could limit chaos, as the candidates will be facing real people.
The first debate was a bruising event of cross-talk, insults and a refusal, primarily by Trump, to respect time limits.
The day after the debate, the commission said it is “carefully considering the changes that it will adopt” ahead of the town hall in Miami, adding that it is looking to add more “structure.” (dpa/NAN)