The first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, took place at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. During the debate, Trump told the Proud Boys, a far-right group, to “stand back and stand by.”
Here is the segment:
Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups…?"
President Trump: "Sure, I'm willing to do that…Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what…somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left." pic.twitter.com/9gJ8qyO4hL
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 30, 2020
During the segment, Wallace asked of Trump, “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.” Trump said, “Sure, I’m willing to do that,” to which Biden interjected, “Do it!”
Trump then said, “I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing. I’m willing to do anything. … I want to see peace.” Both Wallace and Biden urged him to say the words, and Trump added: “You want to call them, what do you want to call them? Give me a name.” Wallace suggests, “white supremacists” while Biden proposes, “Proud Boys.”
Trump states: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”
The topics chosen by Wallace for the first presidential debate were “The Trump and Biden Records,” “The Supreme Court,” “Covid-19,” “The Economy,” “Race and Violence in our Cities” and “The Integrity of the Election,” the Commission on Presidential Debates announced last week. Each segment was slated to last 15 minutes.
Many People Reacted to the Comment on Social Media, Sharing Screenshots of Proud Boys Members Reacting Positively to Trump’s Comment
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, an activist, reacted to the comment on Twitter: “To those who will soon try to spin what Donald Trump said as not telling the Proud Boys to stand by, best tell them that because that’s what they apparently heard,” along with a screenshot of Proud Boys member Joe Biggs’s post. The screenshot of Biggs’ post reads: “Trump basically said to go f*** them up! this makes me so happy.”
Just want to point out that Trump advising the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" is not disavowing white supremacy.
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) September 30, 2020
Many others reacted with incredulity, with one comment reading: “So let me get this straight. Trump was asked to CONDEMN white nationalists… and he told the Proud Boys to ‘standby.'” Another added: “Trump is callin’ white supremacist militias to prepare to act.”
Did I just hear President Trump call on the Proud Boys, the right-wing extremists, to "stand by"?!
Stand by for an assault on election workers? Stand by for what?
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) September 30, 2020
According to Alex Kaplan of Media Matters, the Proud Boys have posted an image on Telegram combining their logo with Trump’s comment:
— Alex Kaplan (@AlKapDC) September 30, 2020
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) September 30, 2020
“Proud Boys – stand back and stand by.”
-Donald J. Trump pic.twitter.com/17DGsCu8K1
— Jelle Simons (@jelle_simons) September 30, 2020
Pressed to denounce white supremacy, Trump instead said: “Proud Boys stand back and stand by.” @splcenter says they’re a hate group. Here’s what their leaders thought of the nationally televised shout out pic.twitter.com/l8eYVtBp8k
— Karina Brown (@karinapdx) September 30, 2020
Both Campaigns Traded Blows in the Days Leading Up to the First Presidential Debate
The presidential race has been heating up in the lead-up to the first debate, with each campaign lobbing accusations at the other. On Tuesday morning, the Trump campaign accused Biden of planning to wear an earpiece during the debate. In a statement posted to Twitter, the Trump campaign’s director of communications, Tim Murtaugh, claimed that Biden has declined a “pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces.”
Joe Biden’s handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves & declined. Biden asked for multiple breaks during the debate, which President Trump doesn’t need, so we have rejected that request.
— Tim Murtaugh – Download the Trump 2020 app today! (@TimMurtaugh) September 29, 2020
Kate Bedingfield, the communications director for Biden’s campaign, fired back and said the claims are “completely absurd. Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks,” POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago reported. Bedingfield also added: “If we’re playing that game, then you know, the Trump team asked Chris Wallace not to mention the number of deaths from covid once during the debate. You can consider that confirmed from the Biden campaign. See how easy that was to try to throw up a distraction?”
The Trump campaign has also repeatedly requested that the candidates undergo drug testing prior to the debate and has accused Biden of taking performance-enhancing drugs. There is no evidence to support that accusation and it does not appear that the candidates will actually be taking drug tests.
Changes Were Made to the Presidential Debates to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
The presidential debates will be different from the format we’ve grown accustomed to due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For one, President Trump and the Democratic nominee, Biden, will not shake hands at the beginning of the debate, as is customary, and they will not shake hands with Wallace. The three men are not expected to wear masks, CNN reported.
In another notable difference, the audience size will be much smaller than past debates, and all audience members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the event, the outlet reported. The co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf, told CNN that although the average audience size for a presidential debate is from 900 to 1,200 people based on venue size, the Tuesday night debate will only have about 60 to 70 audience members.
The coronavirus has already impacted the venue for the first presidential debate, as it was originally supposed to be held at the University of Notre Dame. The school withdrew in July, however, citing concerns with the spread of COVID-19 as the Commission reported.