Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina “immediately” communicated his concerns to White House officials over President Donald Trump’s debate comment that a white supremacist group should “stand back” and “stand by,” the senator’s office said on Thursday.
Scott, the only Black Republican serving in the Senate, made a public statement on Wednesday questioning whether Trump “misspoke” at the debate a day earlier and suggesting he clarify the remark. “I think he misspoke,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I think he should correct it. If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”
But his office said that Scott also communicated those concerns privately, and that the White House had been in touch with him Thursday to discuss the matter. Scott has also spoken about it with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“Senator Scott communicated his concerns to the White House immediately following the debate, heard from the White House earlier today, and spoke with Mark Meadows recently as well,” his office said in a statement.
Scott is among several Republican senators who have called on Trump to clear up his remarks.
The president was responding to a question from the debate moderator, Chris Wallace, who asked if he would condemn white supremacists and ask them to stand down in clashes with protesters.
“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump said. “Then do it, sir,” Wallace responded.
During the shouting match that ensued, Trump asked who Wallace was asking him to condemn. Former Vice President Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, named the Proud Boys, an all-male white extremist group.
“The Proud Boys,” Trump said. “Stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem.”
The exchange has put pressure on the president to express an unequivocal condemnation of white supremacists, some of whom count themselves as his supporters.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he “always denounced any form, any form – any form of any of that. You have to denounce.”
In a testy briefing with reporters Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president has repeatedly condemned white supremacist groups and she pushed back against the characterization that Trump misspoke at the debate.
“When the president denounced white supremacy and said, ‘sure,’ no, he did not misspeak,” McEnany said.