President Trump said Wednesday he was unaware of “who Proud Boys are” and pushed back against Democrats accusing him of going soft on White supremacy at the presidential debate, saying he had “always denounced” it.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. You’ll have to give me a definition,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Because I really don’t know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work. Law enforcement will do the work, more and more.”
Mr. Trump was asked at the Tuesday debate whether he would condemn White supremacists, and when he asked for the name of a group, Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden said, “Proud Boys,” prompting the president to say, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Democrats seized on his remarks, accusing him of supporting White supremacy, but Mr. Trump said Wednesday that “I’ve always denounced any form, any form, any form of any of that.”
He also took a swipe at the Democratic reaction to the ongoing protests roiling U.S. cities, driven by Black Lives Matter activists and Antifa.
“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,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”
President Trump: “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. You’ll have to give me a definition…” pic.twitter.com/lpsBJnqLLQ
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 30, 2020
Enrique Tarrio, international chairman of Proud Boys, which describes itself as a “Western chauvinist” group, denied Wednesday the allegations of racism, tweeting, “The question was in reference to WHITE SUPREMACY … which we are not.”
Kentucky State University associate professor Wilfred Reilly noted that Mr. Tarrio is Black, and said that about 10% to 20% of the group’s activists are non-White, adding, “Proud Boys are not White supremacists.”
Mr. Biden told reporters Wednesday that his message to “the Proud Boys and every other White supremacist group is: cease and desist.”
The right-wing Proud Boys are known for their clashes with leftist Antifa activists, particularly in Portland, Oregon, where the groups clashed Saturday at a Proud Boys rally.
“We’re a drinking club with a patriot problem,” Mr. Tarrio told CNN. “As Proud Boys, I think our main objective is to defend the West.”