US President Donald Trump today claimed to have no knowledge of violent far-right group the Proud Boys, after telling the organisation to “stand back and stand by” during yesterday’s presidential debate.
But Trump’s public backflip hasn’t deterred the group. If anything, the opposite is true: it seems the Proud Boys, whose members have been linked to extremist rallies and violent brawls, are still taking a victory lap after Trump’s initial shout-out.
Speaking in Washington this morning, Trump said, “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” adding, “Whoever they are, they need to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
In case you missed it, debate moderator Chris Wallace yesterday asked Trump if he would disavow the White supremacists and militia groups linked to deadly violence across America.
After Wallace’s question, Trump’s challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, referenced the group, a bunch of polo-wearing extremists who claim to be nothing of the sort.
Moments later, Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Trump’s refusal to roundly condemn White supremacists was the key moment of a chaotic debate, sparking instant condemnation from anyone left of Fred Perry-wearing goons.
Yet his statement was met with glee from high-profile Proud Boys figures.
Per the New York Times, current Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said he didn’t see Trump’s statement as outright approval. Still, Tarrio has reportedly ordered the production of shirts with the phrase “PROUD BOYS STANDING BY”.
The paper reports that online Proud Boys groups have also gained hundreds of members since the debate.
Trump’s meek dismissal of the group today does not appear to have altered that momentum, either.
In the hours since Trump claimed not to know of the organisation, the group’s Parler account has shared messages of support for the President, reflecting Trump’s unfounded fears that his opponents will compromise next month’s election.
“What are your orders Sir!”, one post reads, directly referring to the President. “We will be called to serve after Nov 3rd when the Democrats try to steal the elections!” another commenter wrote.
While there’s a lot of posturing going on, the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks hate groups, states, “violence is firmly entrenched in Proud Boy dogma.”
It’s extremely cool that Trump gave that group some air time – and that his recent disavowal is unlikely to sway its most genuine adherents.