Members of the Proud Boys celebrated on social media after President Donald Trump refused to denounce them as white supremacists during Tuesday’s presidential debate.
The all-male far-right group is labeled “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration” by the Anti-Defamation League, which adds the Proud Boys support white supremacist ideologies.
Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor and moderator of Tuesday’s debate between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, asked the president if he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups.
Trump, who refused to explicitly condemn white supremacists, asked Wallace to name specific groups before the Proud Boys were mentioned.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump urged the group during the debate.
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
Apparel is being sold on Teespring.com with a Proud Boys logo and the “Stand back and stand by” quote. It’s unclear what affiliation, if any, the website has with the group.
Members of the Proud Boys called Trump’s message “historic” on private social media channels and one member said they have received a spike in new recruits, the New York Times reported.
“The Proud Boys were quick to react to the president’s remarks. They heard them as a call to action and rapidly created ‘standing by’ memes designed to help mobilization in the group,” Joseph Carter, program manager at network analysis firm Graphika, told The Washington Post.
The Proud Boys are ecstatic tonight about getting mentioned in the debate tonight.
"Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy," writes one prominent Proud Boy. pic.twitter.com/hYA7yQVAOn
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) September 30, 2020
Asked Wednesday about his comments during the debate, Trump claimed he does not know who the Proud Boys are.
“You’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Trump said. “I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group.
“Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” the SPLC stated.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned Trump’s message toward the Proud Boys.
“Refusing to condemn white supremacy is shameful, and encouraging white supremacists to ‘stand by’ for possible violence is blatantly threatening.,” CAIR Deputy Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said. “Elected officials across the political spectrum must repudiate President Trump’s hateful rhetoric, which long ago went from being disturbing and embarrassing to destabilizing and dangerous.”
Potential members of the Proud Boys must take an oath that states, “I am a proud western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” according to The Guardian.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have all banned the Proud Boys from their websites, The Guardian reported.
Two members of the group were sentenced to four years in prison last year after attacking protesters in Manhattan, ABC News reported. It led Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, Vice Media co-founder, to quit the group, according to ABC News. McInnes left Vice in 2008.
Their members have also organized protests against Black Lives Matter demonstrations, NBC News reported.
Following 2017 violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which reportedly involved members of the Proud Boys, Trump said there “were very fine people on both sides.”