SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - The chairman of the Proud Boys said the group is misunderstood amid comments from President Donald Trump during the presidential debate, comments which the Anti-Defamation League labeled as “dangerous.”
Trump was criticized over his reluctance to denounce white supremacists during the debate, saying that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by,” Tuesday night.
However, on Wednesday, Trump said he did not know anything about the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has previously denied ties to white supremacy, despite some members being linked to extremists.
“I’ve always denounced any form, any form, any form of any of that,” Trump said. “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. They have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
Enrique Tarrio is the international chairman of the Proud Boys, and he lives in South Florida. He reminded people that Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, mentioned their name during Tuesday’s debate and not Trump.
“We don’t consider it an endorsement by the president at all,” Tarrio said. “I believe ‘stand back’ was kind of, like, answering Chris Wallace’s question where he said to ‘stand down,’ and he used the word ‘stand back,’ but I think the point of controversy is the whole ‘stand by’ thing. What I took from it, at least, is pretty much ‘stand by me.'”
Sheri Zvi, the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, considers the president’s phrase “stand back and stand by” alarming.
“Rather than a full condemnation of white supremacy or right-wing extremism, it is unacceptable and dangerous. Period,” Zvi said. “The online response from Proud Boys, whose misogynistic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric is often paired with violence directed at left-wing protesters.”
Members of the Proud Boys immediately started to use the president’s phrase online.
“We always have tongue-in-cheek jokes, so we’re ready to stand by,” Tarrio said. “We’re big 2A guys. We practice our Second Amendment every chance that we’ve got, but that doesn’t mean that we’re some type of standing army because we’re not. We’re not a militia.”
When asked if the group denounces white supremacy, Tarrio said, “OK, so I’m going to say it to you. I’m going to give you the skinny. I’m going to give it to you straight. I denounce white supremacy. I denounce anti-Semitism. I denounce racism. I denounce fascism. I denounce communism and any other -ism that is prejudice towards people because of their race, religion, culture, tone of skin.”
The ADL said people need to pay attention to the messages they are conveying.
“We need to stand up against hate, stand up and denounce all forms of hate, whether it’s online or in person, and call it out when we hear it and see it,” Zvi said.
“Many people use us as political cannon fodder,” Tarrio said. “It’s right before the election. The country has been rioting for four-plus months, and it is left-wing anarchists that are going out and burning down cities, and liberal politicians, Democratic politicians, need a boogeyman.”
The second presidential debate will take place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami on Oct. 15.
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