It might be quite some time before anyone forgets that President Donald Trump refused to denounce white supremacists and any other perceived hate groups, particularly during the first 2020 presidential debate broadcast globally on Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
In fact, if Trump loses the presidency, he and his supporters could well point to the ghastly but revealing exchange during the debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.
Wallace: “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence or the number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha, and as we’ve seen in Portland?”
Trump: “I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
Wallace: “Then do it, sir.”
Biden: “Do it, do it. Say it.”
Trump: “You want to call them. What do you want to call them? Give me a name?”
Biden: “Proud Boys.”
Trump: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
That the president never condemned them and urged them to “stand by” continues to be celebrated by the Proud Boys.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported the Proud Boys as a hate group whose leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. Founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are led by Enrique Tarrio, who’s described as Afro-Cuban.
Last month, a group spokesman told USA Today that the group has longstanding regulations prohibiting racist, white supremacist or violent activity.
“We do not care what color you are or what your background is … if you love America … we consider you a brother,” Tarrio said in a written statement provided by the spokesman to the Gannett news organization.
The group remains dominated by white men while being “more to the right than most constitutional militias” and “more prone to physical violence,” noted Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University senior lecturer who studies nationalism, race and ethnicity.
“The Proud Boys have had a year’s long reputation for not only violence but very clear ties to white supremacy,” Cooter told USA TODAY.
With approximately 5,000-members nationwide, the Proud Boys began in Milwaukee, advocating abolishing prisons and giving each American a gun.
They seek the legalization of drugs, an end to welfare, closing borders to illegal immigrants, outlawing censorship, venerating the housewife, glorifying the entrepreneur, shutting down the government and declaring that “the West is the best,” according to Wisconsin Watch, an online newsletter documenting hate groups.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) contends that the Proud Boys ideology is primarily “alt-lite,” misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration.
“Some members espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies and, or engage with white supremacist groups,” according to the ADL.
Meanwhile, Trump has quickly condemned the Antifa movement, described as a broad spectrum of groups and individuals of far-left or anarchist tendencies.
The term itself merely means anti-fascist.
Mark Bray, a historian and the author of “Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook,” told the Guardian News that Antifa is a loose movement of “decentralized revolutionary self-defense” opposed to the far right.
Antifa conspiracy theories remain common rhetoric among right-wing politicians, media and activists.
“The right describes Antifa as a unitary organization with leaders and even secret funding though that is simply not true,” Bray told the news organization.
It’s believed the Antifa movement began in Europe in the early 1930s as resistance to dictators like Adolph Hitler.
“Although the president and his allies wish to conflate large protests in every city with radical anti-fascist groups, they drastically overstate the numbers and influence of committed Antifa activists,” Bray said.
Antifa members campaign against actions they view as authoritarian, homophobic, racist or xenophobic.
The New York Times noted although, that Antifa is not affiliated with other movements on the left.
The newspaper claimed that Antifa is sometimes viewed as a distraction by other organizers; its members sometimes work with other local activist networks that are rallying around the same issues, such as the Occupy movement or Black Lives Matter.
“Misinformation about the group often spreads through personal networks online,” The Times declared. “In many cases, false or misleading claims appear first in a tweet, Facebook post or YouTube video before they are shared through community texting networks, Facebook groups or the neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor.”
While many opined that the Proud Boys are a threat to African Americans and others in America, Antifa seeks peace for all.
They said the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacist groups and his insistence on designating Antifa as a terror organization is wholly misguided.
“Trump’s continual coddling of white supremacists and white militias is the biggest threat to our democracy,” said Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, a diversity expert and professor of cross-cultural communication at American University.
“This is yet another example of Trump’s embrace of white supremacist and militia groups. During the debate, he told the racist Proud Boys to stand by, and he instructed the Department of Homeland Security to play down the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, who murdered Black Lives Matter protesters,” Dibinga said.