President Donald Trump addressed the controversy regarding his call for the Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by” during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, telling reporters he doesn’t even know who they are.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, in fact, named them at the debate first, calling on Trump to condemn them specifically.
The Wall Street Journal has described the Proud Boys as a far-right group, noting the Anti-Defamation League has found some among its ranks to hold white supremacist and anti-Semitic views.
“In recent months, Proud Boys have fought with people protesting police treatment of Black people in Portland, Ore., and other cities,” The Journal reported.
Moderator Chris Wallace introduced the subject of white supremacy, saying, “You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out antifa and other left-wing extremist groups.”
“But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” he asked.
Trump answered, “Sure, I’m willing to do that.”
Chris Wallace: “Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down…”
Trump: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” pic.twitter.com/4vrPocKzcu
— Axios (@axios) September 30, 2020
“Do it,” Biden interjected.
“I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing,” the president continued.
Both Wallace and Biden then pressed Trump to condemn white supremacists.
“Give me a name. Who would you like me to condemn?” the president asked Wallace.
“Proud Boys,” Biden called out.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said, turning toward Biden and employing the same “stand down” language Wallace had used in the question.
“But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem,” Trump added.
“Antifa’s an idea, not an organization” Biden responded.
A reporter asked the president on Wednesday at the White House what he meant when he said the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.”
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump answered. “You have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are.”
“I can only say they have to stand down. Let law enforcement do their work,” he added.
“Law enforcement will do the work more and more as people see how bad this radical liberal Democrat movement is and how weak.”
A reporter followed up, asking if he had misspoken when he said the Proud Boys should “stand by.”
Trump reiterated, “Just stand by. Look, law enforcement will do their work.”
“They have to stand down. Everybody — whatever group you’re talking about.”
The president was also questioned whether he denounced white supremacists.
“I’ve always denounced any form of any of that,” he answered.
Last week, Trump designated both the Ku Klux Klan and antifa as domestic terror groups, while introducing his black empowerment “Platinum Plan” speaking before a group of African-American supporters in Atlanta.
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