There are many negative but honest headlines you could write about Tuesday night’s semi-coherent shouting match between Donald Trump and Joe Biden and Biden’s de facto spokesman Chris Wallace. But the media has settled on a headline ripped straight from their own fever dreams. “From Debate Stage, Trump Declines To Denounce White Supremacy,” declares NPR. “Trump Refuses to Denounce White Supremacy in Chaotic Debate,” according to the New York Times. “Trump Doesn’t Denounce White Supremacists And Militias During Debate,” ABC News insists. Politico puts it this way: “Trump’s jarring white supremacist moment launches an online furor.” Even Fox and Friends got in on the dog pile.
But none of this is actually true. One need only watch the relevant clip from the debate to see that President Trump did indeed denounce white supremacists. Here is a transcript:
Wallace: “You have repeatedly criticized the Vice President for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left-wing extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacist 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’ve seen in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.”
Trump: “Sure I’m willing to do that.”
Biden: “Then do it.”
Wallace: “Go ahead, sir.”
Trump: “I would say, I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing not from the right.”
Wallace: “So what are you saying?”
Trump: “I’m willing to do anything — I want to see peace.”
Wallace: “Then do it, sir.”
Biden: “Say it. Do it. Say it.”
Trump: “Do you want to call them — what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name. Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?”
Wallace: “White supremacists and right wing militias.”
Biden: “Proud boys.”
Trump: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by…”
I may not be the smartest man but it seems to me that when someone asks “are you willing to condemn white supremacists” and you respond “sure” — as in, yes, I condemn them — you have condemned them. The “stand back and stand by” comment was weirdly phrased, but it should be obvious to any honest person attempting to parse Trump’s words that he meant “stand down,” which is the phrase Wallace used. Unfortunately there aren’t very many honest people in the media, so instead they are pretending to believe that Trump was rallying his white supremacist militia horde and telling them to “stand by” for the coming invasion.
But this all beside the point. The problem is the question itself, not the answer. Being asked to condemn white supremacists is like being asked to deny that you’re a pedophile. The point of the question is to create the association in the audience’s mind. By condemning or denying in that context, you are implicitly legitimizing the premise that there is some sort of potential connection between you and the evil thing.
It’s claimed that Trump must condemn white supremacy because — as Biden has charged — Trump has never once done so. This is flat out untrue, as FactCheck.org has shown. Going back to the infamous Charlottesville rally in 2017, Trump said that he “condemns in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.”
Two days later he said in a statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
The next day in a press conference Trump again emphasized that neo-Nazis and white nationalists “should be condemned totally.” That’s three condemnations in the span of four days. How many times does Trump need to explain that Nazis are bad? Does he have to deliver an address from the Rose Garden every morning to remind us that he still doesn’t like racists and Nazis?
Meanwhile, Nazis and white supremacists are not the ones who have been rampaging in our streets for months on end. They are not the ones who’ve looted and burned and killed and caused billions of dollars of property damage this summer alone. As Trump correctly pointed out, left-wing extremist groups are the real threat we’ve faced over the last few months, and Democrats including Joe Biden have not only refused to condemn these dangerous forces, but have explicitly promoted and supported them. Biden last night came valiantly to Antifa’s defense, saying they are “an idea, not an organization.”
And if Democrats are reluctant to condemn Antifa, we can be sure that they will never, and have never, whispered a single word of criticism towards Black Lives Matter, a radical, racist, Marxist organization which seeks to destroy the nuclear family and get rid of the police, among other stated goals, and whose leaders openly encourage looting and violence. No group in recent history has damaged this country — physically and in every other sense — to the same degree as BLM. Three years after the fact, the media still hasn’t gotten over Trump’s “very fine people” phrasing, which they are willfully misinterpreting. For months, though, Democrats have been telling us that there are very fine people among the rioters, looters, and murderers in the BLM/Antifa mob. Indeed, listening to them tell it, they’re all fine people, fighting for truth and justice by burning down their local convenience store and beating random pedestrians half to death.
Democrats are the ones who should be issuing condemnations. But they will never be forced to condemn, nor asked why they won’t. That’s the advantage of having nearly all of the mainstream media on your side.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own.
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