Trump fails to denounce white supremacists during debate

A day after the first presidential debate, Trump denied knowing the far-right group “Proud Boys” to reporters on Wednesday.
8:17 | 09/30/20

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Trump fails to denounce white supremacists during debate
Good evening and it's great to have you with us here on this Wednesday night. And we begin tonight with the fallout from that debate last night, or what was supposed to be a debate. It rattled much of this nation, devolving into chaos and personal attacks. Late today, the debate commission saying there will be changes, with two more debates scheduled between the president and Joe Biden on the schedule before the election. President trump and Joe Biden, their first face-to-face meeting last night and you don't need me to tell you it left much of this country stunned. Joe Biden at times turning away, turning to the camera, trying to directly address the American people, but it did not last. And there was the moment when president trump failed to condemn white supremacists and militias when asked if he would do so. What the president is now claiming about that today, and the president also saying he has received tremendous reviews. Joe Biden traveling by train through Ohio and Pennsylvania now, saying the president's behavior was a national embarrass pt. And tonight, both campaigns now reacting to changes coming from the debate commission. And ABC's Mary Bruce leads us Reporter: It's being called the worst debate in U.S. History, a disgrace and a disservice to the American public, but today, president trump called it fun. I thought the debate last night was great. We've gotten tremendous reviews on it. Reporter: But lawmakers of both parties say the president went too far with his constant interruptions and insults. You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class, don't ever use the word smart with me. Don't ever use that word. Oh, give me a break. Reporter: Joe Biden, exasperated. I'm not going to answer the question. Why won't you answer that question? Because the question is -- You want to put a lot of new supreme court -- The question is -- Radical left -- Will you shut up, man? Who is -- listen, who is on your list, Joe? Gentlemen, we've ended This is so un-presidential. Reporter: The low point of the debate, and possibly of trump's entire campaign, was when the president refused to condemn white supremacists. Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups -- Sure. 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? Sure, I'm willing to do that. Are you prepared to specifically -- Do it. Go ahead, sir. I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. So what are you -- what are you saying? I'm willing to do anything, I want to see peace. Then do it, sir. Say it. Do it, say it. Do you want to call them -- what do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name. White supremacist and right-wing militias. Proud boys. Proud boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody has got to do something about antifa and the left. Reporter: Moments later the proud boys celebrating their marching orders, adopting the president's words as a slogan, "Stand back and stand by." Today, even trump's allies on Fox News blunt that this is nothing to celebrate. Donald Trump blew the biggest layup in the history of debates by saying -- not condemning white supremacists. I don't know if he didn't hear it, but he's got to clarify that right away. That's like "Are you against evil?" Why the president didn't just knock it out of the park, I'm not sure. Reporter: On capitol hill, several Republicans echoing senator Tim Scott, saying the president needs to explain himself. I think he misspoke, I think he should correct it. If he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn't misspeak. Reporter: Later, at the white house, the president claimed he doesn't know who the proud boys are, even though Biden cited the group as an example of white supremacists. I don't know who the proud boys are. I mean, you'll have to give me a definition, because I don't really know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work. Reporter: But he still wouldn't denounce the group, so our Kyra Phillips tried again. Mr. President, let me follow up. White supremacists, they clearly love you and support you. You welcome that? I want law and order to be a very important part -- it's a very important part of my campaign. But do you denounce them? Do you denounce them? I have always denounced any form -- any form -- any form of any of that, you have to denounce. Reporter: On a train tour of Ohio today, Joe Biden with his own message to the proud boys. My message to the proud boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist. That's not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans. Reporter: Biden calling out trump's debate performance. The president of the United States conducted himself the way he did, I think it was just a national embarrassment. What I saw last night was all he didn't speak to you or your concerns or the American people even once. Reporter: On stage, Biden tried to talk around the president and talk directly to the American people. This is his economy that being -- he's shut down. The reason it's shut down is because, look, you folks at home -- how many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of covid? Reporter: But outside his stop in alliance, Ohio, some of Biden's own supporters told us they weren't thrilled with his performance. So, did you watch last night? I turned it on, but I got so disgusted I couldn't watch it. He needs to go ahead and act presidential, don't allow himself to get pulled into these -- the pettiness. Reporter: Trump protesters there, too. They weren't happy with how their candidate acted, either. I think trump underperformed and Biden performed better than I expected. I wasn't impressed, honestly. Both people, they both let the worst of them come out. So, let's get right to Mary Bruce on the campaign trail. And Mary, four years ago, we take note that 84 million people watched Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Last night, about 10 million fewer, perhaps a sign of the exhaustion that we heard from some of those people interviewed in your piece. Americans exhausted with politics and exhausted in this pandemic, quite frankly. I know both campaigns have publicly committed, at this point, to debating again and you've got news from the Biden campaign, pointing to some positive numbers last night? Reporter: Well, David, so far tonight, both campaigns are saying that these next debates are still on. And tonight, the Biden campaign is pointing to a new fund-raising bounce coming out of this campaign, just announcing that in the three hours around the event, they raised 10 million in small dollar donations, including $3.8 million in just the final hour of the debate. They see it as just a sign of the strength of this campaign, David. All right, Mary, thank you tonight. And as I mentioned at the top, the debate commission now announcing that they will make changes to avoid a repeat of what this country saw last night, saying they will impose additional tools to maintain order. So, let's get right to Jonathan Karl tonight, and Jon, the next debate is supposed to be a town meeting setting with voters actually asking the questions, perhaps that could also change this dynamic some. Reporter: But David, we got very different reactions from the two campaigns to the idea of changing the way the debates are run. The Biden campaign issued a statement making it clear that they would welcome changes, saying, quote, Biden will be focused on answering questions from voters there, under whatever set of rules the commission develops to try to contain Donald Trump's behavior. The trump campaign, on the other hand, is making it clear that they do not want any changes, saying, quote, the commission shouldn't be moving the goal posts and changing the rules in the middle of the game. I just spoke to the commission on presidential debates and they are making it clear that there will be changes and this will not be a negotiation. So, one change under consideration is giving the moderator the ability to cut off the microphone of a candidate if the candidate violates the rules. The bottom line here, if the trump campaign continues to insist on no changes, there is a real possibility that those next two scheduled debates do not happen. David? There's been a lot of chatter about that ability of cutting off the mic, but how did we get to this point in the first place? A lot of questions to come on this. Jon, thank you again tonight, as And with the election, of course, playing out in this pandemic, and the end of the debate last night focusing on voting by mail in this country, our partners at fivethirtyeight have put together an easy to use state-by-state guide voting in person and by mail. You can go to We turn to the coronavirus

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"8:17","description":"A day after the first presidential debate, Trump denied knowing the far-right group “Proud Boys” to reporters on Wednesday. ","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/WNT","id":"73350983","title":"Trump fails to denounce white supremacists during debate","url":"/WNT/video/trump-fails-denounce-white-supremacists-debate-73350983"}