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.