For many observers, the most shocking moment of the night was Donald Trump refusing to offer a clear statement that he would accept the results of the election.
Asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, if he would say “that you will absolutely accept the result of the selection,” Trump refused to answer and digressed into complaints common in right-wing media about non-existent voter fraud.
“But sir, there is a tradition in this country,” Wallace interjected, “that no matter how hard fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner — not saying that you are necessarily going to be the you loser or the winner — but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying that you are not prepared now to commit to that principle?”
Trump answered: “What I’m saying is, I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”
Hillary Clinton then jumped in, saying, “that is horrifying.”
The horror was shared across the political spectrum on social networks, even prompting rebukes from Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Laura Ingraham, a dedicated Trump supporter.
He should have said he would accept the results of the election. There is no other option unless we're in a recount again.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 20, 2016
John Adams accepted peaceful transfer of power in 1800. That's been the standard for 216 years. Now Trump says: "I'll keep you in suspense."— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) October 20, 2016
"I will keep you in suspense," Trump says on accepting the election result.— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) October 20, 2016
Tune in for the season finale of election 2016 on November 8th
If you work in American politics and your boss asks you to defend not accepting results of American election, do the decent thing and quit.— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) October 20, 2016
Cubs leading 10-2 in 7th. Good suspense though about whether Dodgers accept the outcome— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) October 20, 2016
Political reporters suggested that Trump dodging the question would be the headline in many newspapers. Indeed the Wall Street Journal quickly obliged.
A short time later, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, sought to defuse the threat by saying, “Donald Trump will accept the results of the election because Donald Trump is going to win the election.”