Donald Trump

Proud Boys' Leader Responds to Debate: Trump ‘Didn't Promote Us'

NBC Universal, Inc.

It was one of the most jarring moments of Tuesday’s presidential debate: President Donald Trump was directly asked to condemn white supremacists, specifically the group Proud Boys -- but he instead told them to "stand back and stand by."

It’s a statement some say was an endorsement. But Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, says it wasn’t. 

“He didn’t condemn us,” Tarrio said. “He didn’t promote us either. What ‘stand by’ means is stand by me.”

Shortly after Trump’s comment, the Proud Boys, a far-right group which describes themselves as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men,” posted a logo to social media with the president’s words: “Stand Back, Stand By.”

Tarrio, who’s Cuban and lives in South Florida, defends it.

“The president was asked a very poignant question,” Tarrio said. “He was asked about white supremacy and he was asked to disavow white supremacy. Biden cut him off and said our name.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the Proud Boys as a hate group tied to several violent incidents at recent protests. The group has five chapters in Florida. 

"Today is like Christmas to the Proud Boys,” NBC News investigative reporter Brandy Zadrozny said. “This sort of dog whistle to one of the most violent groups on the right is only going to be seen as a sort of energizing call, marching orders to get back on the street and do more damage." Zadrozny covers the internet and politics for NBC.

The president said he denounced the group when pressed by reporters Wednesday.

"I always denounce them, any form,” Trump said. 

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden made his stance clear. 

“My message for the proud boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist,” Biden said. “That's not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans."

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