President Donald Trump embraces Tate Reeves during a campaign rally Tupelo on Nov. 1, 2019.

Gov. Tate Reeves condemned white supremacy groups Wednesday, but refused to criticize President Donald Trump’s refusal to do the same.

“I condemn white nationalist groups,” Reeves said Wednesday in response to a question from a reporter. But he said he did not “interpret” Trump as refusing to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday’s contentious debate with former Vice President Joe Biden.

When debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump and Biden if they condemned white supremacist groups on Tuesday night, the president did not do so, and instead said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”

The Proud Boys has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been accused of committing multiple violent acts during Black Lives Matter protests across the nation,

In recent days, antifa has been labeled by FBI Director Chris Wray as being a movement more than an organized group. People associated with antifa often are blamed for some of the violent acts during demonstrations in cities across the nation and are often in conflict, sometimes physically, with white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys.

During the debate, Biden condemned all violence that occurred at the protests. Reeves on Tuesday said Trump recently labeled both the KKK and antifa terrorist groups.

“I supported his effort to do so,” Reeves said.

While Reeves did condemn what he called “white nationalist groups,” he refused to say during the news conference whether he would vote in November to remove an 1890s provision from the state Constitution that was designed to ensure African Americans, then a majority in the state, were not elected to statewide office. The Legislature has placed a proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot to remove the measure after a federal judge, in response to a lawsuit, indicated that if the state did not, he might do it himself.

The provision requires a candidate for statewide office to garner both a majority of the popular vote and the most votes in a majority of the 122 state House districts. If candidates do not obtain both thresholds, the election is decided by the state House from the top two vote-getters.

Reeves said he would be announcing his positions on various ballot measures in the coming days, though he stressed he was supporting Trump.

Another person on the Nov. 3 ballot, incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, released a statement praising Trump’s debate performance, but did not comment on his refusal to condemn white supremacy.

In a statement, Hyde-Smith said the Tuesday debate “was a clear demonstration as to why those who want to keep America great must turn out and vote this Nov. 3. President Trump has brought better-paying jobs to our communities, strengthened our families, kept our country safe, and returned the rule of law to our courts, and he will continue to do so as our commander in chief for the next four years. He is the leader to take us back to our pre-pandemic growth.”

Hyde-Smith continued: “In stark contrast, Joe Biden has moved too far to the left for even most Democrats to be comfortable with, opening the door for Socialist ideals, including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and an activist judicial takeover that bypasses Congress to impose a radicalized agenda.”

Biden said Tuesday night he did not support Medicare for all or the Green New Deal.

Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy in the Nov. 3 election.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.