HOLDING A WATCH PARTY, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. was joined by his son, Jonathan Jackson and Rev. Cameron Barnes at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, 930 E. 50th St. late Tuesday night. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)
Black leaders react with disgust as misleading claims fly
Chicago Crusader Staff Report
President Donald Trump had the opportunity to, once and for all, call out white supremacists. He blew it. He disparaged the nation’s first Black president, called out Chicago for its gun violence and remained evasive about his taxes.
In a highly-anticipated debate that turned toxic with clashes, interruptions and name-calling, Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden—for nearly two hours—struggled to make their case for the White House. The embarrassing exchange left America exhausted, and Blacks disgusted by Trump’s failure to denounce racism on the national stage.
The Black Information Network and WVON carried the debate live as Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. held a debate watch party at his Rainbow PUSH Operation headquarters in Hyde Park.
In Cleveland, it was round one of three debates that showed a combative president, who looked like a desperate politician, and who dodged important questions about racial justice, his taxes, and the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the evening, the debate confirmed to millions of viewers that Trump is a bully who needs to be voted out of office. For Blacks, the debate confirmed that Trump is a divisive president who continues to fuel racial tensions as the nation’s commander-in-chief.
One of the highlights of the debate came when moderator and Fox News journalist Chris Wallace asked Trump, “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down…” Rather than condemn white supremacists, Trump responded: “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.”
After Trump’s response, the Proud Boys, a far-right, white extremist group, pledged allegiance to the president. On the Proud Boys’ account on the social media app Telegram, the group appeared to take the statement as marching orders. “Standing down and standing by sir,” was the statement on the account. Two videos of the answer were posted under the account, including one with the caption, “God. Family. Brotherhood,” in which a man howled at the TV in response to Trump’s response.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a tweet that the president’s answer was “astonishing” and said, “President Trump owes America an apology or an explanation. Now.”
Trump also claimed that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, was irresponsible after leaving 128 federal judicial seats unfilled before he left office. The statement was misleading. The Republican-led Senate refused to confirm many of Mr. Obama’s judicial nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland, whom Mr. Obama named to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
Pressed by a New York Times report that he paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, Trump claimed during the debate that he “paid millions of dollars in taxes,” before Biden responded, “Show us your tax returns.”
Hours before the debate, Biden and vice presidential running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, released their tax returns. Despite repeated promises, Trump has failed to release his tax returns over the years. This week, a bombshell New York Times report revealed that the billionaire president failed to pay taxes for 11 years and that his companies are deep in debt.
During the debate, Trump claimed that a COVID-19 vaccine is coming “soon” and said, “I’ve spoken to the scientists that are in charge. They will have the vaccine very soon.” That’s when Biden looked directly in the television camera and said, “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you?”
Biden also noted nationwide that “one in 1,000 African Americans have been killed because of the coronavirus,” a fact verified by the New York Times.
Trump called racial sensitivity training “racist.” He said people were being taught to “hate America,” even as he remains under fire for criticizing the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning project, “The 1619 Project,” on slavery that’s being taught in schools across the country.
When asked a question about the rise in homicides in America, Trump blamed Democratic governors and mayors. He said, “I think it’s a party issue. If you look at Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago, where 53 people were shot and eight died,” Trump said.
In a tweet, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “Keep Chicago out of your lying mouth.”
Biden replied, “You wouldn’t know a suburb unless you took a wrong turn,” and “this is not 1950.” The former vice president noted that he grew up in the suburbs, and in the present day, the suburbs are places where people drive kids of multiple races and ethnicities to soccer practices all together in one car.
Biden also said he is opposed to calls for defunding police departments and said Trump had accomplished such a thing by cutting federal budgets for law enforcement.
Interruptions and clashes overshadowed most of the debate. At times, Wallace lost control of the exchange as the candidates talked over each other to the point where viewers were unable to understand what they were saying.
At one point, Biden said, “Will you shut up, man?” He called Trump a clown, who’s been “totally irresponsible” in the way he handled the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, a listener on WVON called Trump “despicable.” Another listener said she is not looking at any more debates and that Wallace should have turned off Trump’s microphone when he went over his two-minute time limit and constantly interrupted his opponent.
After the debate, Lightfoot released this statement.
“Tonight, we saw the clearest contrast in our nation’s history between two candidates for president. Joe Biden is focused on working families, small businesses, healthcare and getting our nation through the pandemic. Donald Trump is focused, as always, on himself. Trump has made a mess of everything he’s touched in his life, and governing has unfortunately been added to his long list of failures. Joe Biden will make our economy work for regular Americans, push for real social justice, and support our nation’s great cities—and he’ll do it with dignity and respect.”
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. said, “This was not a presidential debate. It was a clown show with President Trump as the chief performer. He came to the debate to disrespect the American people, who were expecting and deserving of a serious debate on the issues. He attempted to provoke former Vice President Biden by taunting him, and he tried to intimidate the moderator, Chris Wallace. This was ridiculous, embarrassing, and ignorant. Our country should be ashamed of our current leader.”
In a statement reacting to the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election, Illinois U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin responded: “Biden learned tonight you cannot debate a person who has no respect for the rules of the debate and no respect for the truth…It is time for a new President who can move this country forward and bring this pandemic under control. Trump has failed. It is time for a change.”