Even if Joe Biden misspoke about 'Proud Boys,' social media embraces 'poor boys'

Joshua Bote, USA TODAY
·3 min read

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday mistakenly referred to the far-right group Proud Boys as “poor boys” — a viral moment in a debate that was relatively lacking in them.

After President Donald Trump was asked by moderator Kristen Welker if the language he's used in the past has contributed "to a climate of hate and racial strife," she asked Biden the same question.

“Here is one of the most racist presidents we've had in modern history,” Biden said, before listing Trump’s comments and actions toward Mexican and Muslim people.

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Then, in seeming reference to the candidates' first standoff, Biden said: “He says to them about the ‘Poor Boys’, last time we were on stage here. He said, ‘I told him to stand down and stand ready’. Come on. This guy has a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

During the first presidential debate, a confrontational exchange that drew plenty of viral moments, Trump’s tacit avoidance of disavowing white supremacists and, instead, telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” ignited significant controversy — and multiple calls for the president to renounce the group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has denounced the Proud Boys for its "anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric" and has designated it as a hate group. Experts have deemed the group a white supremacist organization, a categorization the group has rejected.

The Proud Boys' sometimes violent tactics have become more visible as the organization has staged demonstrations, often in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Whether it was an error or an intentional reference, Biden ignited commentary across the aisle — and a healthy number of sandwich jokes.

“A nasty group of racist thugs shouldn't ever get to call themselves ‘Proud,’” said one commenter.

Writer Kiese Laymon said: “Just like that, (they’re) The Poor Boys now and forever.”

Some also defended Biden from critics of his misspeaking, pointing out that he has overcome a stutter and that speech errors are sometimes a symptom.

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Proud Boys: Joe Biden mistakenly calls far-right group Poor Boys