Pressed to clarify his debate comment about Proud Boys, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday they need to get out of law enforcement’s way, and insisted he has always denounced white supremacists and vigilantism.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, before he flew out to Minnesota. “They have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work.”
Trump added that he has always denounced white supremacists, and that any form of crime, including that perpetuated by right-wing militias, concerned him.
Reporters were pressing Trump to explain his words from Tuesday night’s debate with Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, during which moderator Chris Wallace had demanded Trump condemn “white supremacist and right-wing militia.”
“What do you want to call them? Give me a name! Give me a name! Go ahead! Who do you want me to condemn?” Trump said at the debate. When Biden jumped in with “Proud Boys,” Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Within minutes of the debate’s end, this was interpreted by the mainstream media as Trump somehow refusing to disavow white nationalists.
During the debate, both Biden and Wallace claimed that Trump had referred to white supremacists at the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia rally “very fine people.” Biden has repeatedly cited these remarks as spurring him to run for president. However, Trump’s words had been stripped of context, because he had, in fact, condemned racism and racists at the same press conference as “evil” and “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”