Donald Trump during the first televised debate against Joe Biden, September 29, 2020. -
Olivier Douliery / AP / SIPA
Once again, he struggled to be clear on this issue.
During the debate against Joe Biden on Tuesday evening, the American president was invited by the moderator to condemn, once and for all, the actions of “white supremacists” and “militias” which are fueling tensions in anti-racist demonstrations.
And if he assured that he was "ready to do it", Donald Trump ultimately dodged, with an ambiguous statement concerning the Proud Boys, a far-right group delighted to be mentioned in front of tens of millions of viewers.
Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down ..."
Trump: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. "
- Axios (@axios) September 30, 2020
The exchange is hard to follow because the moderator, Donald Trump and Joe Biden were speaking at the same time.
The dialogue takes place in this order:
- Moderator: "Are you ready to condemn white supremacists and militias?"
- Trump: "Absolutely"
- Moderator: "and tell them that they must give up (violence)?
- Trump: "Absolutely, I'm ready to do it, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left and not from the right."
I am ready for anything, I want peace… ”
- Moderator: "So say it"
- Biden: "Say it"
- Trump: "What do you want me to say, give me a name"
- Moderator: "White supremacists and far-right militias"
- Biden: "Proud Boys"
- Trump: “Proud Boys, step back and get ready.
But let me tell you, something has to be done about Antifa and the left.
The “stand back and stand by” formula is the subject of debate.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gave the definition on Twitter:
- “Stand back: take several steps backwards.
- “Stand by: to be or to be ready to act.
'Stand back': to take a few steps backwards
'Stand by': to be or to get ready to act # Debates2020
- Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 30, 2020
The Proud Boys, a racist and misogynistic nationalist group, were immediately happy to have been mentioned, especially remembering the second part interpreted by one of the members as "He told us, basically, to go fuck (the antifas)."
The Proud Boys watching the debate - and @realDonaldTrump gave the call.
- The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) September 30, 2020
Thursday morning, Republican Chris Christie, who coaches Donald Trump for these debates, and African-American Republican Tim Scott, called on the US president to “clarify” his remarks.
He did this before getting into the presidential helicopter, saying, “I don't know the Proud Boys.
But they must stop and let law enforcement do their job.
BREAKING: “They have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” Trump says of Proud Boys, adding “I don't know who the Proud Boys are.”
- Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 30, 2020
US presidential election