Ohio Sen. Rob Portman called Thursday on President Trump to “unequivocally” condemn white supremacy, days after the president’s remarks on the subject during his debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden drew widespread criticism.
Moderator Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” asked Trump during Tuesday night’s debate if he was willing to condemn white supremacy and militia groups and tell them to cease violence in U.S. cities. When Biden asked Trump to specifically condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right group, the president generated outrage by telling them to “stand back and stand by.”
Portman, a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2011, said Trump should have made a stronger statement.
“I believe the President missed a good opportunity to clearly condemn white supremacy during the debate,” Portman said in a statement. “He should do so unequivocally because, as I said after the debate, there is no place in our society for hate groups of any kind. As I’ve said consistently, our leaders need to do more to try to bring our polarized country together and both the president and former vice president can and should play a role in that effort.”
Portman’s response was first obtained by Cleveland.com.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s response during a press conference Thursday, arguing the president has repeatedly condemned white supremacy. MeEnany added that Trump has an “unmistakable” record on the subject and the media “refuses” to cover it.
Trump personally addressed the controversy on Wednesday, telling reporters that he had never heard of the Proud Boys.
“I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” Trump said.
Shortly after Trump’s comments, Portman tweeted that he was “pleased” the president had clarified his remarks during the debate.
The first Trump-Biden debate often turned heated, with the discussion ranging from key topics such as the coronavirus pandemic response to personal attacks. In his statement on Thursday, Portman added that he would have preferred a more substantive discussion on platform issues.
“I wish we had had a better debate over the policy differences between the two candidates with fewer interruptions,” he said. “Particularly on the economy, there are huge differences between the candidates that the American people deserve to hear discussed.”