The Spanish-language network Univision delivered a softball interview segment with the leader of the far-right street gang the Proud Boys, allowing him to go unchallenged on his claims about the organization, amid increased media attention after President Donald Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by” at the first presidential debate in September.
“We are a group that is anti-communist, anti-authoritarian,” said leader Enrique Tarrío, speaking in Spanish. “They say we are fascist. I think that fascism and communism are the same thing.”
The Proud Boys is a far-right organization with links to white supremacist movements, including the violent “Unite the Right” white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and 2018. The Anti-Defamation League also pointed out, in the wake of Trump’s comments at the debate, that some Proud Boys members “espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.”
“They accuse you of provoking political violence,” news anchor Sandra Peebles asked. “Are you violent?
“We don't practice unjustified violence,” Tarrío said. “But if we are talking about defense, then yes we are violent.” Peebles did not push back on Tarrío’s claim.
Last year in New York City, two members of the Proud Boys were sentenced to four years in prison for an attack against counter-protesters outside a 2018 event at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan. At the event, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes had brought a samurai sword to reenact the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, leader of the Japanese Socialist Party, at the hands of a teenage ultranationalist. During his speech to the group, McInness also described the Proud Boys as “foot soldiers” for the right. In the wake of the brawl outside, McInnes exited the building and waved his sword in the air as he went to his car.
And just this week, a man was arrested in North Dakota for allegedly sending an anonymous email to a local newspaper, threatening to blow up a voting location. The message was signed, “The Proud Boys.”
Other mainstream media have also bungled their coverage of the Proud Boys, with CNN describing the group as being “a political fight club,” while Fox News has actively promoted McInness and the group for years.
Spanish-language media have also become vulnerable to disinformation campaigns. NBC News reported in September: “Conspiracy theories around the ‘deep state,’ billionaire Democrat philanthropist George Soros and QAnon have become a constant fixture on Spanish-language YouTube programs, WhatsApp clips and pro-President Donald Trump Facebook groups aimed at a Latino audience.”