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McMaster: Forceful condemnation of white supremacists 'should be a layup'

McMaster: Forceful condemnation of white supremacists 'should be a layup'

Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE missed a clear shot at condemning white supremacy during this week's presidential debate, adding that doing so contributes to the threat such groups pose.

“To use a sports analogy, condemning white supremacists should be a layup for any leader,” he added, saying the issue also affected military readiness.

“As a military officer, it breaks my heart to see divisions, because what you see is people come into the Army from all different walks of life,” the retired lieutenant general said. “They carry with them certain prejudices and predilections. But you see that all melt away when they’re part of the team.”

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Asked by The Atlantic whether such groups were a threat and whether more direct condemnation was necessary, McMaster said, “Yes and yes.”

In Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Trump, when asked whether he would be willing to condemn white supremacists, replied “Sure, I’m willing to do that” but when pressed, said “almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.”

Asked again if he would specifically condemn the far-right Proud Boys group, Trump responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” — a message members of the group on social media have taken as a call to arms. 

The exchange, McMaster said, was “certainly a missed opportunity, but it also gives space to these groups that foment hatred and intolerance.”

“And whenever you have a group at one end of the spectrum who define themselves in a particular way, you tend to get an equal and opposite reaction on the other end of the spectrum. Those of us who have more of a common identity as Americans and don’t judge people by race, color, creed, or sexual orientation—but have faith in our identity as Americans and in humanity—we tend to get drowned out by those on the extreme,” he added.

Allies of the president have also faulted how he handled the question. Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade used the same terminology as McMaster Wednesday, saying the president “ruined the biggest layup in the history of debates.”