During the presidential debate, which took place on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland between President Donald J. Trump and Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the topic of white supremacy and the far-right organization, the Proud Boys, came up.
Christopher Wallace, Fox News anchor and moderator of the debate, asked Trump if he would condemn white supremicists and militia groups after Trump’s criticism of Biden for not explicitly denouncing Antifa protests.
In response to the question, Trump stated that much of the uproar and violence he had seen came from left-wing groups, not right wing. When prompted about the Proud Boys, he asked the members of the organization to step back, but remain on standby.
Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group that operate as a self-described “pro-western fraternity.” The group claims that their sole purpose is to congregate and participate in social activities all in support of western culture, ideology and society.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Proud Boys are a “violent, nationalistic, Islamaphobic, transphobic and misogynistic group.”
In 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the Bureau classified the group as a radical group that has connections to white nationalism.
Founded by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys follow Western chauvinism, the belief that Western ideas and principles are superior to those of other countries, shown through forceful and exclusive acts of patriotism. McInnes, who stepped down from the Vice Media corporation in 2008, is known for his radical statements about women, religion and those of various races/ethnic groups which have sparked controversy over the years.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American non-profit legal organization focused on issues concerning civil rights and the safety of the public, labeled the Proud Boys as a hate group, which led McInnes to sue the center for defamation in 2019. McInnes severed ties with the Proud Boys in Nov. 2018 after the SPLC designated the group as a hate group.
Proud Boys have a distinct uniform: Make America Great Again hats and black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts — which the retailer has chosen to stop selling due to the association with the group.
Enrique Tarrio, a Cuban-American, presides as chairman of the Proud Boys and as the acting Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, a grassroots organization unaffiliated with Trump and the Trump campaign.
Tarrio has expressed content with the President’s statement at the debate and says the group has seen an uptick in membership since the presidential debate on Tuesday night.
Known for its association to white supremacy and anti-Black statement, the President’s response at the debate has been viewed largely as a refusal to denounce white supremacy in the United States of America.
After the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, which sparked the nationwide Black Lives Matter Movement, many public figures have come forward to voice their support for the movement. In July, the President issued a statement via Twitter calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate, which White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had to clarify later in a press briefing.