As President Donald Trump and the Republicans try to regroup after Tuesday’s contentious presidential debate, the far-right Proud Boys feel heartened by what they perceive as a call to action.
The hoopla started on Tuesday night after debate moderator Chris Wallace asked the president if he would be willing to condemn white supremacist groups and militias. Trump attempted to deflect but when Wallace pressed him, the president asked for a name. His opponent, Joe Biden, named the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said. “Somebody has to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is left-wing.”
Many viewers were horrified by Trump’s comment, but the Proud Boys rejoiced and some have adopted “stand back and stand by” as a slogan, according to Yahoo News.
“Standing down and standing by sir,” wrote a supporter, according to screenshots posted on Twitter.
The group was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, who once stated members of Proud Boys must be “a western chauvinist.”
“We beat the crap out of them,” McInnes continued, per CBS News. “We’re not going to pick fights, but if they pick fights with us, we’re going to finish them.”
Members of the group have insisted they are not racist but they are “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt,” reported the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group.
Trump’s comments prompted widespread condemnation, even from members of the Republican Party.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell remarked it was “unacceptable not to condemn white supremacists,” without explicitly naming the president, as reported by The New York Times.
Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, hopes Trump misspoke.
“White supremacy should be denounced at every turn. I think the president misspoke, and he needs to correct it,” Scott said on Wednesday, according to CNBC. “If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”
On the same day, Trump claimed he did not know who the Proud Boys were and suggested they defer to law enforcement.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are; you’ll have to give me a definition,” he told reporters at the White House. “Whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”