President Trump refused during last night’s debate to condemn white supremacists for inciting violence at anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country, claiming instead during the presidential debate that violence was coming from “the left wing.”
The stunning moment came when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was ready to condemn white supremacists and say they need to stand down during ongoing demonstrations across the country.
Here’s a look at how some Republican lawmakers are reacting:
Sen. Tim Scott
Asked on Wednesday whether he finds it concerning that President Trump refused to condemn white supremacists at last night’s debate, Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Senate Republican, said “I think he misspoke.”
“I think he misspoke in response to Chris Wallace’s comment,” the South Carolina Republican said. Adding, “He was asking Chris what he wanted to say, I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it, if he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”
Off camera, CNN’s Ted Barrett followed up with Sen. Scott after his meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday morning to see if he intended to speak directly with President Trump about whether he misspoke when he refused to condemn white supremacists last night.
“I’ve already sent my comments to the chief of staff,” Scott replied.
Scott said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had no specific response other than saying thank you.
Sen. Mitt Romney
Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju whether he thinks the President should have condemned white supremacy at the presidential debate last night, Sen. Mitt Romney said, “Of course. Of course.”
When Raju followed up, asking what he thinks the impact will be of Trump refusing to denounce white supremacy, Romney replied, “I don’t know what impact, I’m not a political pundit, so I can’t tell you what impact that will have.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy argued President Trump condemned white supremacists during Tuesday night’s debate, although Trump refused to explicitly do so.
“I think the President has been very clear that he’s against anybody committing violence in the streets,” McCarthy said at an event Wednesday morning.
McCarthy noted that in Trump’s exchange with moderator Chris Wallace, Wallace asked if the President would denounce white supremacists, and Trump initially responded in the affirmative.
“How many times does he have to say it? If the question is would you denounce it and the answer is yes, he did that,” McCarthy said in response to a question from CNN’s Manu Raju.
But when pressed during the debate to condemn white supremacists and racists directly, Trump merely told members of the Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by.”
McCarthy didn’t respond to Manu’s questions on whether that response was acceptable. He said Trump’s proposal to designate the KKK as a terrorist group shows his opposition to white supremacy. The plan unveiled by the President on Friday would also allow for the prosecution of Antifa as a terrorist organization.
“Not only did his words speak it, but his actions have taken it,” he said.
Sen. Todd Young
Indiana Sen. Todd Young, who chairs the election committee for Senate Republicans, repeatedly refused to criticize President Trump for not condemning White supremacy at Tuesday’s debate.
But, standing before cameras Wednesday, Young loudly declared that he opposes “White supremacy” and “all extremist groups,” separating himself — and perhaps the vulnerable GOP candidates he’s trying to help get re-elected — from the President’s controversial comments.
Young, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also refused to say if Trump’s comments or combative approach at the debate would hurt Republicans’ ability to maintain control of the White House or Senate and kept turning the conversation back to how Republicans are energized by the Supreme Court nomination.
Although, at one point, Young acknowledged that “we did not great clarity about the difference in vision for the future of the country and I did think that was unfortunate.”
Sen. John Thune
CNN’s Manu Raju asked Senate Majority Whip John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, if Trump should have condemned white supremacists at Tuesday night’s debate. “In his mind he did,” Thune said on Wednesday.
Asked if it were appropriate for Trump to tell the Proud Boys to “stand by,” Thune said: “That’s a question you’ll have to ask to them. I think it’s probably important for them to clear up that statement.”