The first 2020 U.S. presidential debate dove into the issue of domestic terror, with President Trump being asked to condemn white supremacism and candidate Joe Biden asked to condemn Antifa.
Kicking off a conversation on extremism, moderator Chris Wallace resurrected a false claim that President Trump called white supremacists “very fine people” in a speech after the 2017 Charlottesville riot.
Wallace then asked the president if he was prepared to condemn “white supremacism and militia groups.” Here’s how the exchange went:
TRUMP: Sure, I’m prepared to do that. But I would say almost everything I see is from the Left wing, not from the Right wing. If you look, I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.
WALLACE: Then do it, sir.
BIDEN: Do it. Say it.
TRUMP: 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 …
BIDEN: Proud Boys
WALLACE: White supremacists and right-wing militia.
TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left. Because this is not a Right-wing problem — this is a Left-wing problem.
While the president has before condemned white supremacy, his answer became its own debate for the American people, many of whom questioned why an outright condemnation couldn’t be offered.
Watch the exchange in the tweeted video below.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 30, 2020
Ironically, while the Proud Boys are a violent, antagonistic and politically Right-leaning group, they are ethnically diverse — which doesn’t exactly fit into the “white supremacist” category. They do share some political ideology with white supremacists, but the Proud Boys are not race-centric.
Meanwhile, last month the Department of Homeland Security labeled white supremacists as the most persistent and lethal threat to the United States.
On the other end of the stage, the confusion on domestic extremists extended to presidential candidate Joe Biden and his refusal to critique Antifa. As seen in the video above, Biden says, “Antifa is an idea, not an organization.”
This is clearly not an accurate representation of the group.
Clarion Project recently hosted a webinar about designating Antifa as a domestic terror organization with Andrew C. McCarthy, the former assistant United States attorney for the southern district of New York, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and 11 others.
McCarthy outlined why the administration may be hesitant to designate Antifa as a terror organization, but emphasized that the group is very well organized. Moreover, McCarthy explained how Antifa engages in the same behavior patterns as other designated extremist groups.
Since 2018, Clarion Project has been dedicated to understanding and educating the public on preventing violent extremism — an epidemic we now see in 2020 erupting across the American landscape.
Clarion Project has spoken at length on the rising polarity, tribalism and identity politics as gateways to radicalization.
Weighing in for Clarion on the first of the presidential debates are Ryan Mauro, director of the Clarion Intelligence Network, and Shireen Qudosi, a national correspondent:
“The biggest threat we face is the escalating “War of Extremes” and the associated decline in belief in the U.S./Western world as an ideology. Both candidates were outrageously unable and unwilling to stand against their tribe’s militant elements.” – Mauro
“The responses from both presidential candidates were blurred at a time when we must be crystal clear in our understanding of extremist ideologies and their motivations. President Trump’s choice of words, directing the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’ will be an empowering battle cry signifying to them that the president is on their side and that they are extensions of his presidency.
“We can debate the meaning of the words all night long, but we cannot afford to ignore how those words will be interpreted by fringe groups. The words ‘stand back and stand by’ don’t de-escalate; they’re a pause button with a finger hovering over the button to resume. This was an extremely unfortunate choice of language that extremists will likely use as a recruitment tool. It is almost guaranteed to result in escalated violence in the months to come.
“Meanwhile, it’s incredibly alarming to see a challenger for the White House not even be able to recognize Antifa as a chaos element. It undoubtedly qualifies as an extremist ideology by all measures. We don’t need to condemn people, but we do need to condemn their behavior and I didn’t see that from Joe Biden tonight.” – Qudosi