President Trump's reaction to a question about far-right white supremacist groups during Tuesday's first 2020 presidential debate quickly drew reactions ranging from pushback to anger from politicians and pundits, as South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a fellow Republican, said the president needed to correct his statement.
Trump was responding to a question from "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate, asking if he was willing to denounce white supremacists, to which the president replied, "Sure, I'm willing to do that."
Democratic nominee Joe Biden then suggested Trump specifically condemn the far-right group Proud Boys, to which the president responded in part, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," sparking outrage on social media.
Scott, R-S.C., told reporters Wednesday he thought the president misspoke when he said "stand back and stand by," but called on him to correct his statement if that really were the case.
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"I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it. If he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn't misspeak," he said during a photo op with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
"Donald Trump is a white supremacist," Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday along with a video clip of the exchange.
"People have been warning about this for a long time. They were ridiculed, called hyperbolic [and] radical — not [because] they were wrong, but [because] others couldn’t accept that our country elected a supremacist as [p]resident. This is fascism at our door."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused the president of refusing to "denounce a white supremacist group that supports him and signaled his command instead" in a Wednesday morning tweet.
Omar Navarro, a California Republican running for governor against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, tweeted that the Proud Boys don't represent him "as a Republican Trump supporter."
"The Proud Boys don’t represent me as a Republican Trump [s]upporter," he wrote on Tuesday. "I have witnessed some of leaders cheat on their wives, do drugs and say racist slurs towards me. They are like ANTIFA, I don’t agree with any form of violence. Two wrongs don't make a right."
A number of other politicians and pundits and commentators expressed outrage at the president's comment:
The Proud Boys group itself embraced Trump's words on the cloud-based messaging app Telegram, writing, "F— it, let’s go back to Portland." Another member of the group shared a T-shirt with the words "stand back" and "stand by" around the Proud Boys logo.
The Trump campaign pushed back against the outrage, saying the president has repeatedly condemned white supremacy. Communications Director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News that the president has "repeatedly, over the course of years now, denounced white supremacists and has been consistent in doing that."
"The media keeps asking him to denounce white supremacy, and he keeps doing it," Murtaugh said. "At a certain point, they are going to have to take yes for an answer."
He added that "just last week, the president declared the KKK a terrorist organization, and it cannot be any more clear than that," referencing Trump's $500 billion Black America Plan, or the "Platinum Plan," which calls for the prosecution of "the KKK and ANTIFA as terrorist organizations and make lynching a national hate crime."
Donald Trump Jr. said his father was "more than happy" to condemn the Proud Boys in a Tuesday night interview with CBS News.
"I don't know if that was a misspeak, but he was talking about having them stand down," Trump Jr. said of the president's "stand by" comment.