Following controversial comments during the first of three televised election debates, President Donald Trump has told far-right group Proud Boys to ‘stand down’ and let law enforcement do their work.
Trump refused to condemn the extremist group during the debate against Biden and even said they should ‘stand by’, comments which Proud Boy leaders hailed ‘historic’ and an endorsement.
White supremacist groups have been more prevalent in recent times and many have made the media for their presence and behavior at protests across the country. During the first TV debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump to condemn white supremacists and tell them to stand down during protests.
“Sure, I’m willing to… but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing,” Trump 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 because this is not a right-wing problem,” he responded when Biden told him it was Proud Boys he should be condemning.
Media have described the debate as disjointed, chaotic and unprofessional as at times it descended into a shouting match with both parties talking over the other. The debate commission has already announced that it will introduce new measures for the next two debates in an attempt to ‘maintain order’. Trump weighed in with his thoughts, saying that he thought the debates needed a new anchor and a smarter Democratic candidate.
However, speaking on the White House lawn a day after the debate, President Trump admitted that he was not aware of the Proud Boys or any of their actions. The President advised them to stand down and let law enforcement work without interference and instead asked his opponent Biden to condemn antifa, whose actions during the national protests have also garnered media attention.
“When confronted with tough or tricky issues, Donald Trump has a tendency to offer a smorgasbord of often contradictory answers, allowing his supporters – and detractors – to pick and choose what to believe,” US politics analyst Anthony Zurcher said.
Nowhere has this behavior been more pronounced than when he addresses white supremacists and extremist right-wing groups. At times he has renounced them. At others, he equivocates or changes the subject when a direct condemnation would suffice.
Instead, the president ends up offering a rallying cry to hate groups, as he did following the 2017 Charlottesville violence or with his “stand back and stand by” message on Tuesday.
Proud Boys is an anti-immigrant far-right group founded in 2016. Comprised entirely of males, the group has a history of street violence against left-wing opponents. One social media account belonging to the activists posted a logo containing the words ‘Stand Back, Stand By’ after Trump’s comments during the debate.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition, because I really don’t know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.
“Law enforcement will do the work more and more as people see how bad this radical liberal Democrat movement is, and how weak. The law enforcement is going to come back stronger and stronger. But again, I don’t know who Proud Boys are. But whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
“Just stand by. Look, law enforcement will do their work. They’re going to stand down. They have to stand down. Everybody, they have to stand… Whatever group you’re talking about,” he added.
“Let law enforcement do the work. Now, Antifa is a real problem, because the problem is on the left and Biden refuses to talk about it. He refuses to issue the words law and order. You saw that last night when he choked up. He can’t say the words, because he’ll lose the rest of the left. So he’s got to condemn Antifa. Antifa is a very bad group.
“I thought the debate last night was great. We’ve gotten tremendous reviews on it. We’re hitting what people want. Law and order, which Biden was unable to even talk about because he’d lose the radical left, his radical left followers,” Trump continued.
“I don’t think there’s too many of them left, but I thought it was a great evening. It was an exciting evening. I see the ratings were very high, and it was good to be there. Felt very comfortable, and I appreciate all the good words. So we are going now, and we’re going to have a big rally. A lot of people are showing up.
“I want law and order to be a very important part. It’s a very important part of my campaign. And when I say that, what I’m talking about is law enforcement has to… Police have to take care, and they should stop defunding the police like they’ve done in New York.”