U.S. President Donald Trump refused to directly condemn white supremacists during the first U.S. presidential debate Tuesday evening.
Fox News journalist and debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists during a segment focusing on race tensions in the U.S.
“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?” Wallace asked.
Replying to the question, Trump said, “sure.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden can be heard saying “say it, do it” in the background.
“I’m willing to do that,” the U.S. president said. “But I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing.”
“I’m willing to do anything,” he continued, “I want peace.”
However, when Wallace pressed Trump to directly condemn white supremacists, the president only named the Proud Boys, a far-right group.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he said, before shifting his focus to Antifa.
Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
The protests over Floyd’s death often descended into chaos in several cities across the U.S., with police and protesters clashing.
Trump has repeatedly claimed Antifa — a broad movement with left-leaning ideologies — is responsible for the violence taking place during the Black Lives Matter protests.
During the debate, Trump called Antifa a “dangerous radical group.”
Earlier during the debate, Biden said Trump attempts to make everything into a racial “dog whistle,” adding that the Republican president has “done virtually nothing” for Black Americans during his tenure.
Biden said one in 1,000 Black Americans have died because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, adding if Trump doesn’t “do something quickly,” that number will increase to one in 500.
The Proud Boys appeared to be celebrating Trump’s comments Tuesday evening, according to U.S. media reports.
According to an NBC report, many people on the social media app Telegram who identify with the group were echoing Trump’s remarks, taking them as marching orders.
“President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA,” one user wrote, “Well sir! we’re ready!!”
A New York Times report said within minutes, members of the group were posting in private social media channels, saying Trump’s remarks were “historic.”
Biden reacted to the messages in a tweet posted after the debate, saying “This. This is Donald Trump’s America.”
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, called Trump’s comments “astonishing.”
“Trying to determine if this was an answer or an admission,” he wrote in a tweet. “@POTUS owes America an apology or an explanation. Now.”