Trump vs Biden 'Race and Violence in Our Cities' Debate Topic Seen as Anti-Black By Dems, Activists

The long-awaited first general election debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday will include some of the most critical issues of the moment: from the scourge of COVID-19, to the floundering economy, and an examination of the records of both men.

But one debate topic, "Race and Violence in Our Cities," released by debate moderator Chris Wallace, a veteran Fox News anchor, has angered black Democrats and even Biden-world, leading to charges that it is anti-black rhetoric and a GOP talking point.

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, told Newsweek the mischaracterization of what transpired in the country over the last several months creates "a false and dangerous narrative" that sets the stage for the vilification of non-violent movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM).

"The current framing steers people away from the relevant conversation we should have about police brutality, systemic oppression, racial injustice, and police officer's role in our society," he said. "During this debate, both candidates have an opportunity to address our urgent concerns about Black people's lives and treatment in this country. The poorly-veiled attempt to shift the public discourse and scrutiny away from the cause of the peaceful protest is a tactic to deceive people about the origin of the violence and where it is directed."

"It felt like Trump won," said Angela Rye, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, of her reaction to seeing the debate topic. "The framing around law and order and BLM as terrorism won, and the movement as protectionism for Black people and Black bodies lost out."

"The Supreme Court" and "The Integrity of the Election" are the other two meaty topics Wallace is set to dive into, but only the one on race and violence caused a stir, including among Biden-world, which felt the topic accepts the fear-based framing from Donald Trump and Republicans on the issue.

"It's basically a Trump talking point," a source close to the campaign told Newsweek, arguing that it fit more in the week-long news cycle around violence in Wisconsin at the end of August, and doesn't belong among the short list of topics during the first 90-minute debate between the two candidates. "That moment in this country has passed a little bit. If you go and talk to a swing voter they care about COVID, health care, and the economy, not this narrative of chaos in the streets the president is trying to create."

In a CNN op-ed Saturday, journalist Steven A. Holmes said Wallace gets to choose the way topics will be debated and "with regard to the issue of police brutality and public reaction to it, he has done so in a one-sided, intellectually lazy and racist manner," calling it "nakedly partisan" and blatantly favorable to Trump.

Defenders of Wallace noted CNN is a competitor. Wallace was also the only debate moderator from 2016 to be invited back and his interviews of Trump and Democrats have received praise.

Fox News referred all questions about debate topics to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Bryan Lanza, a former Trump 2016 campaign and transition official, countered that the framing may be politically "inconvenient" for Democrats, but it is accurate.

"You can't separate violence from race based on anything that happened this past summer, so I don't understand that criticism from the left," he said. "It's sort of like putting your head in the sand that they're not connected."

On September 1, Trump toured a block where businesses were burned in Kenosha, Wisconsin, blaming "far-left" politicians for the "domestic terror," but made no mention of the shooting of Jacob Blake, which set off the powder keg in the state.

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist and CBS political commentator, told Newsweek that the topic can still be presented fairly if Wallace acknowledges the violence on the right, which has also escalated situations.

"If we're going to talk about violence we should talk about Proud Boys and 17-year-olds showing up with long guns and shooting people," Simmons said. "The question is why is there a rise in white extremist violence where they seem to be more comfortable expressing violent tendencies towards people of color?"

Rye called the debate topic unacceptable.

"During this year when so many lives have been lost, why in the world would we succumb to BLM becoming the boogeyman?" she aksTo frame the conversation as race and violence in our cities when Black people are overwhelmingly suffering from systemic oppression, how dare you?"

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From Left: Mandel Ngan/AFP, Saul Loeb/AFP Getty