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Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump's refusal to take Chris Wallace's prompt to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday's debate and his "stand back and stand by" comment about the Proud Boys became the No. 1 storyline from the debate online, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: The post-debate response put Trump — not Joe Biden — on the defensive, and allowed the former vice president to dodge blowback from his own shortcomings in the debate.

By the numbers: Among the 100 most-engaged stories coming out of the debate, the 3.24 million combined interactions (likes, comments, shares) on stories about Trump's Proud Boys comments and the ensuing uproar were 34% higher than the next biggest topic: the performance of Wallace as a moderator.

The criticism of Wallace largely came from conservative media outlets, which framed the Fox News host as being biased against Trump.

  • The single most-engaged story from the debate came from the Daily Wire: "Chris Wallace Faces Intense Backlash, Including From Colleagues, Over Bias During Debate" (1.12 million interactions).
  • Mainstream media criticism of Wallace centered around his inability to keep the conversation from going off the rails.

Between the lines: With the guns of the conservative media ecosystem trained on Wallace, Biden received less incoming for his wobbly performance, including punting on whether he'd support adding justices to the Supreme Court and deferring on a number of Trump's direct challenges on issues like his support from law enforcement.

The biggest anti-Biden storyline of the debate was about the suspicions from the right that he was receiving extra debate assistance:

  • "Trump camp seeks extra debate rule: Third party inspectors to look for electronic devices in candidates' ears" (Fox News, 454k)
  • "WATCH: Wire Or 'Shirt Crease'? Something Appeared To Be Going On Under Biden's Jacket" (TrendingPolitics.com, 187k)
  • "Biden Asks For Breaks Every 30 Minutes During Debate: Report" (Daily Wire, 126k)

After Wallace and 'Proud Boys', the poor quality of the debate overall was the third-biggest topic.

  • In addition to stories about planned changes to future debates, highly engaged pieces included commentary about how the rest of the world reacted to the spectacle in the U.S.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

See all past editions of the tracker here.

Data: Newswhip; Graphic: Axios Visuals — Note: Hover over the graphic on desktop to see weekly articles and interactions for candidates and issues.

Go deeper

Trump’s relationship with Fox grows icy amid election

Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

President Trump's rocky relationship with Fox News was on full display Election Day, starting with his morning call into the cable news network during which he complained that things are "much different now" than in 2016.

Driving the news: Fox called Arizona for Joe Biden around 11:30pm ET Tuesday, ahead of almost all other major news networks. Around 3am on Wednesday, AP put Arizona in Biden's column.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Climate's role in the chaotic election

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Should Joe Biden ultimately win the White House, his climate agenda will almost certainly be limited — at least for the foreseeable future — to what he can pursue using executive powers.

The state of play: While several Senate races are outstanding, Democrats look unlikely to regain the majority in that chamber despite pickups in Colorado and Arizona, which aren't enough.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.