The statement, made during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, came in the middle of various attacks on both Biden for not condemning Antifa and the media for pressing the White House for clarity on Trump’s position.
“I’ve said it many times, let me be clear again: I condemn the KKK, I condemn all white supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys,” Trump said. “I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that.
“But he (Biden) should condemn, also, Antifa,” Trump immediately added.
Trump has struggled to clearly state his position on white supremacy throughout his presidency. While he has condemned the ideology and groups like the Ku Klux Klan in the past, those statements have also come days after comments that drew attention from their actions — including after deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Va., when he referred to violence “on many sides.”
A similar moment came Tuesday during his debate with Biden. Asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he will condemn white supremacy, Trump said “sure” but declined to clearly make that statement.
When Wallace suggested Trump start with condemning the Proud Boys — a far-right group that supports the president and has been known to cause violence — Trump told them to “stand back and stand by.”
Members of the Proud Boys took note of Trump’s remarks.
At least one Proud Boy organizer celebrated the group’s mention on the social media platform Parler, saying: “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA…well sir! we’re ready!!” according to screenshots posted by a New York Times reporter on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Trump was asked by a reporter if he welcomes the “love” white supremacist groups show for him, and was given another opportunity to condemn them.
“I denounce any form of that,” he said, again declining to say exactly what he was denouncing.
Earlier on Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany got into a heated exchange with Fox News reporter John Roberts over the issue, reading from Trump’s past statements while also not clearly saying that the president condemns white supremacy.
In his conversation with Hannity Thursday night, Trump praised McEnany for how she handled the situation, falsely claiming Roberts was “screaming” at her and that Roberts’ wife, ABC News reporter Kyra Phillips, praised Trump’s earlier statements. Phillips refuted the president’s claims on Twitter.
Trump then focused the conversation back on Biden, saying he needs to condemn Antifa for allegedly committing violent acts during widespread protests over systemic racism — ignoring the violence that Proud Boys and white supremacists have perpetrated, including in Portland, Ore.
During Tuesday’s debate, Biden drew from FBI intelligence that states Antifa is a loosely collective ideology — Biden called it “a philosophy” — rather than a formal group the way the Proud Boys are.
“Antifa is a horrible group of people,” Trump said. “They kill people. What they do to people, and they’re causing insurrection, they’re causing riots. He doesn’t want to do that (condemn them).”
Biden has denounced violence and rioting during protests, urging people to demonstrate peacefully.
Trump complained to Hannity that “even if I (condemn white supremacy) a hundred times, it won’t be enough, because it’s fake news.”
— With files from Katie Dangerfield