After getting savaged by the public for his refusal to clearly condemn white supremacists during last night’s presidential debate debacle, Donald Trump told reporters today that he doesn’t “know who the Proud Boys are,” after telling the violent group yesterday to “stand back and stand by” in what most people saw as a veiled threat to unleash his brown-shirt equivalents when the election doesn’t go the way he wants it to.
Speaking to journalists on the White House lawn this afternoon, Trump tried to backtrack on his perhaps intentional gaffe last night by repeating his call for the Proud Boys to stand down from their violent activities around the country and particularly in Portland, Oregon where clashes between the racist group and protestors demanding an end to police brutality against Black Americans have been both frequent and brutally savage.
Unfortunately, the president continued to promulgate his false claim that antifa, anarchists, and leftist extremists are responsible for the bulk of the terrorist violence taking place in the United States in recent years, even though his own FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have each concluded that right-wing white supremacist groups comprise the largest threat of domestic terrorism by far of any possible source of violence.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2020
The Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascist, male-only organization that espouses a racist white-genocide conspiracy theory and which first became widely known through their participation as some of the “very fine people” attending the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017, celebrated Trump’s comments on social media after being featured so prominently in the debate.
According to The New York Times:
“Within minutes, members of the group were posting in private social media channels, calling the president’s comments ‘historic.’ In one channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram, a private messaging app, group members called the president’s comment a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics.”
Trump’s claims to have never heard of the Proud Boys was met with serious skepticism by MSNBC’s Katy Tur who commented on-air today that “I think he probably does know who they are, and if he doesn’t, maybe one of his aides might want to whisper it in his ear.”
The same network’s Nichole Wallace saw the president’s comments today as a clumsy attempt at damage control after his initial words set off a firestorm of negative publicity for Trump’s flailing campaign.
“Joe Biden had, not only, the moral high ground there, but the facts on his side,” Wallace said today. “And just in the last hour, Donald Trump sought to put the toothpaste back in the tube by telling the Proud Boys to, ‘stand down and let law enforcement do its job.’ Now, think about that. He said that as though law enforcement’s job wouldn’t include policing white extremism. This comes after Donald Trump’s own FBI director, like Biden said there, testified that white supremacists represent the greatest domestic terror threat, not Antifa, which Donald Trump, of course, tried to conflate last night.”
Even if you give the president the benefit of a doubt that he surely doesn’t deserve and take him at his revised word today that he wants all groups to stand down and let law enforcement — ironically the target of the BLM protests for their own violent behavior — do their jobs, it’s clear that the Proud Boys did not interpret his comments that way.
What’s even more clear is the fact that, unless Trump is defeated at the ballot box in numbers that are incontrovertible, the threat of political violence summoned by the president remains a real, and frightening, possibility.
By now you know what you need to do. Go vote for Joe Biden and make sure that everyone you know does the same.
If we defeat Trump and rid the nation of “the worst president in American history,” as Joe Biden called Trump at the debate last night, then we can all be legitimately proud.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.