During the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday night (Sept. 29), the extremist group Proud Boys got a hefty mention. When pressed by moderator Chris Wallace to speak to the issues surrounding white supremacy, Trump weaponized the group by telling them to “stand by” like a racist Commander-In-Chief.
Wallace asked pointedly for Trump to condemn the actions of white supremacist groups, which the FBI categorizes as extremists and a threat to national security. Seizing the moment as only he can, President Trump responded in a most surprising fashion.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left,” Trump fired back.
When both men were presented with how to tackle some of the ongoing discussions around race and how to build bridges between varying communities, both Trump and Biden had their stumbles but it was the former business mogul who seemed determined to rile up his base and stick to some of the right-wing conspiracy talking points that have made around online and in social media.
The Proud Boys, which was founded just ahead of the 2016 election, seemingly relished in the Trump shoutout and reportedly changed their group logo to reflect the “stand back and stand by” utterance shared during the debate.
As analysts have observed, Trump has galvanized the group much as he did the white nationalists who gathered at the Unite The Right rally in Charollotessville, Va., whom he referred to as “very fine people.”
On Twitter, reactions to Trump’s weaponizing of the Proud Boys organization have been cropping up and we’ve collected those below.
"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by": It bears repeating -- there has been no presidential debate moment more disqualifying than this pic.twitter.com/n7hRT7P2g0— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 30, 2020
"stand back and stand by."— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 30, 2020
trump's failure to condemn White Supremacists like the Proud Boys isn't a bug -- it's a feature.
It was the continuation of his hateful Charlottesville message of support.
Sen. Tim Scott on Trump telling the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" at last night's debate: "I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it. If he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn't misspeak."— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) September 30, 2020
Retweet to expose how Trump encourages violence regularly with groups like the proud boys. pic.twitter.com/uAeRql7qwT— ReallyAmerican.com 🇺🇸 (@ReallyAmerican1) September 30, 2020
Just asked GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy about Trump refusing to condemn white supremacists and telling Proud Boys to stand by and stand back. He deflected onto an attack on Biden and antifa, claimed Trump did condemn last night and wouldn’t answer about Trump’s comment on Proud Boys— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 30, 2020
A vote for @JoeBiden is a vote for a man who will take down the Proud Boys. Pass it on.— Chip Franklin InsideTheBeltway.com (@chipfranklin) September 30, 2020
I still can’t get over the fact that Trump was told to condemn violent white supremacists, and all he could eek out was to tell the Proud Boys to “stand by”— effectively a call to arms.— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) September 30, 2020
Portland has seen the chaos and violence that the Proud Boys bring with them. They appreciate that Trump is in their corner and cheering them on. That’s all you need to know about the president’s commitment to “law and order.”— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 30, 2020
Don’t get caught up arguing about whether the Proud Boys are racist. If you support policies that disproportionately harm Black people & other ppl of color, you support racism.— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (@RevDrBarber) September 30, 2020
Let people know that the guy on the left is Proud Boy Ben Bergquam (who blocked me) and fellow racist and good friend, Congressman @DevinNunes. Ben's twitter handle is (@)BBergquam. Happy Wednesday! pic.twitter.com/CMdoTd9JYr— Toby Morton (@tobymorton) September 30, 2020
And note that he also reiterated, as his namesake son said in a rather hysterical video, the Trumps are calling on thousands of their followers to go to the polls and “watch Democrats vote.” So it will be the Proud Boys, then? https://t.co/TyMJpXtLDR— Joy WE VOTED!! WEAR A MASK!! Reid 😷) (@JoyAnnReid) September 30, 2020
The Michigan branch of the Proud Boys posted this meme featuring the president’s words to their Telegram account last night. The image is from from their Aug. 15 visit to Kalamazoo that turned violent. pic.twitter.com/HaWs015wFI— Samuel J. Robinson (@samueljrob) September 30, 2020
“Stand By!”— Chip Franklin InsideTheBeltway.com (@chipfranklin) September 30, 2020
Trump tells Proud Boys to be ready.
And who backs that?
Do you believe #BLM now?
No one wants to look at it dead-on, because it's so ugly, but Trump telling the Proud Boys to "stand by" was one of the darkest moments in American history. He's not even being subtle about raising an army of fascist goons to intimidate voters and take revenge if he loses. pic.twitter.com/NWeTsNTsm8— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) September 30, 2020