Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden defended far-left anarchist movement Antifa as “an idea, not an organization” and said white supremacists pose a greater danger to the country during the first presidential debate on Tuesday night.
The comments came after President Trump said someone should “do something” about the anti-fascist movement, saying far-left anarchists are more dangerous than white supremacists in response to a question by moderator Chris Wallace about whether the president would condemn white supremacists and militia groups.
“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 supremacists 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 saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland,” Fox News’ Wallace said, referencing violent rioting in a number of Democratic cities in recent months.
“Sure, I’m prepared to do that,” the president said. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing not from the right-wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
Biden and Wallace pressed the president to specifically condemn white supremacists and the far-right group the Proud Boys to which Trump said, “Proud Boys stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the Left because this is not a right-wing problem.”
The former vice president countered in saying that Trump’s “own FBI director said the threat comes from white supremacists — Antifa is an idea, not an organization, not militias, that’s what his FBI director said.”
The Bureau’s director Chris Wray told lawmakers earlier this month that Antifa is an ideology or a movement, not an organization, but said that activists were a serious concern and that Antifa is a “real thing.”
Wray said the FBI had undertaken “any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists,” which included individuals who identity with Antifa.
Trump, who has said he would designate Antifa as a terror group, said the FBI director’s assessment is wrong and added, “when a bat hits you over the head that’s not an idea. Antifa is bad.”
“Antifa is a dangerous radical group and you ought to be careful with them, they’ll overthrow you,” Trump concluded.
Black-bloc anarchists, many of whom identify as “anti-fascists,” rioted in a number of major American cities this summer, vandalizing businesses and homes, setting fires, and clashing with law enforcement. The unrest began in June and persisted for more than 100 consecutive nights in Portland, Ore.