Romney: Trump should have condemned white supremacists during debate

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Utah) said on Wednesday that President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE should have condemned white supremacists during the first presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE.

"Of course," Romney told reporters when asked if Trump should have condemned white supremacists.

"I think he could have been more clear in repudiating any form of white supremacy," the senator subsequently told reporters, adding that he thought the debate overall was an "embarrassment."

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Trump refused to denounce white supremacy during Tuesday's night chaotic debate. 

Asked directly to denounce white supremacists and militia groups, Trump instead argued that "almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing." When pressed on the far-right Proud Boys group specifically, the president said, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."

Trump's remarks sparked near immediate backlash from Democrats, while far right groups immediately celebrated his comments online. 

Asked what impact he thought Trump's remarks would have, Romney sidestepped, saying he wasn't a "political pundit" but contrasted the debate with the tightly structured rules seen in a Lincoln-Douglas format, which follows specific time allotments for both candidates.

"I can't tell you what impact that will have. I can say I watched the debate last night, it was not a Lincoln-Douglas debate, that's for sure," he said.

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"I'm not going to give a lot of advice on debate, but when I heard at the very beginning, when Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceAnything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Biden walks fine line with Fox News Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book MORE said here are going to be the rules, 'two minutes for each side,' and then open discussion, I thought oh my goodness. I don't recall that ever being the format," Romney added.

The campaigns agreed that each candidate would get two minutes of uninterrupted speaking time during the first debate in response to the questions given them. But those rules largely went out the window as soon as the debate started.

The event instead was marked by constant crosstalk, interruptions and several personal attacks during a raucous and chaotic clash between Trump and Biden, with moderator Chris Wallace struggling to keep control of the event. 

Wallace, early on in the debate, clashed with Trump, telling him, "Mr. President, I’m the moderator of this debate and I’d like you to let me ask my questions."

—Updated at 1:43 p.m.