During the first presidential debate on September 29, President Donald Trump was asked to condemn white supremacy and the violent neofasict group Proud Boys. In response, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by.” Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy and his appeal to the Proud Boys, which has connections to other hate groups, caused widespread condemnation. Immediately after Trump’s comments, the Proud Boys cheered his statement. The next day, Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio appeared on Infowars to respond to the president’s appeal to the Proud Boys.
Infowars host Owen Shroyer, who has suggested George Floyd’s death was staged and recently said former President Barack Obama “basically has a rope destined for his neck,” told Tarrio that he thinks Trump is aware of the Proud Boys’ activity.
Tarrio said that the most important thing that Trump said was “stand by,” and by saying that, Trump was telling the group to “stand by me.”
Tarrio further claimed that recruitment for the Proud Boys has drastically increased since the debate “to the point that in my particular chapter I had to put a hold on vetting for new chapters.”
While Trump has since attempted to walk his statement back, saying, “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” it is clear that his direct appeal to the group is providing them fuel for growth. A former Proud Boys member told CBS News that Trump’s statement “emboldened” the group.
The president has consistently refused to condemn white supremacy and hate groups, and his right-wing media allies never fail to defend his statements supporting bigotry. Now, the president’s words are helping a violent extremist group recruit more members.