The mouthpiece of a South Florida-based right-wing extremist group that calls themselves the Proud Boys is out of jail and back in South Florida in his hometown.
In his first sit-down interview since being released, Enrique Tarrio spoke exclusively to the NBC 6 Investigators, saying he regrets the actions that landed him in jail and the violence on Jan. 6, 2021.
Tarrio said if he wasn’t arrested, he would have been at the capital that day and that he would have stopped the Proud Boys from participating in any violence.
One week out of a DC jail and fresh from seeing his probation officer, NBC 6 met up with Tarrio at his warehouse in southwest Miami-Dade, where he makes t-shirts, hats and everything else sold on his website.
“It’s never really been my full-time job. My full-time job has been managing PR for a bunch of drunks known as the Proud Boys,” said Tarrio, talking about this website.
The 37-year-old Cuban American says he is struggling to pay bills after credit card companies stopped working with the website three years ago to distance themselves from a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group that spouts white nationalist images and messages, anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric, and violence.
Tarrio showed off bull horns in his podcast room that have blood stains from rallies. It was destruction of property that got him arrested on Jan. 4, 2021. He was on camera burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a DC church. He was released from jail after serving nearly five months.
"This is actually the first interview that I do,” he said.
Tarrio explained to NBC 6 that the Proud Boys support the Constitution. When asked if he believed in freedom of speech, he said yes. And when NBC 6 pressed him on how burning the Black Lives Matter banner contradicts that, he admitted it was wrong.
“I made a mistake,” Tarrio said.
Tarrio said he apologized to the church, but spending 23 hours a day in a cell doesn’t seem to have changed his view on much.
“I’m a Proud Boy for life,” Tarrio said.
He's a rare Hispanic man in a white nationalist group — a group he says touts family values. On his desk was a new pamphlet aimed at recruiting members.
“I would say all of us (Proud Boys members) are not the most intelligent people in the world, and I say that with jest,” Tarrio said.
The group became known after being mentioned by Donald Trump at the Sept. 29, 2020 presidential debate.
A supporter of Trump, Tarrio says he does not support what members of his group are accused of doing during the Jan. 6 riot. Tarrio was dealing with his legal troubles over the banner burning and in a hotel when the riots broke out.
“I don’t agree with or condone what happened at the Capitol when it comes to the violence,” Tarrio said. “We went to Washington D.C. with the intent of sitting there and supporting President Trump and then drink beer after, and obviously, I wasn’t there and I can’t tell you what was in their heads, but I think the mob mentality just took over.”
He says the attack on the Capitol was a step back for the MAGA movement and the Conservative Party. But, he plans to move forward with the Proud Boys.
“Love them or hate them, the Proud Boys aren’t going anywhere. We’re here to stay,” Tarrio said.
Tarrio has faced criminal charges prior to his arrest in D.C. — federal charges where it came out that he served as an informant. He wouldn’t share any specific future plans, but says he is considering getting involved in local politics.