Speed Reads

2020 presidential debate

The Proud Boys are celebrating Trump's 'stand back and stand by' debate shout-out

President Trump appeared to agree to moderator Chris Wallace's challenge at Tuesday night's presidential debate to "condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence at a number of these cities, as we saw in Kenosha and as we've seen in Portland." But when it came down to it, he either chickened out or choked, instead telling the Proud Boys white nationalist group to "stand back and stand by." By most accounts, the Proud Boys were thrilled.

Getting orders from Trump is a long-held "fantasy" for the group, Megan Squire, who tracks online extremism at Elon University, told NBC News. "To say Proud Boys are energized by this is an understatement," she explained. "They were pro-Trump before this shout-out, and they are absolutely over the moon now. Their fantasy is to fight antifa in his defense, and he apparently just asked them to do just that."

If the Proud Boys were ecstatic, critics of far-right extremism were not.

The Anti-Defamation League calls the Proud Boys a violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, and misogynistic hate group, and its president, Jonathan Greenblatt, asked whether Trump's Proud Boy comment "was an answer or an admission," adding that the president "owes America an apology or an explanation. Now." Biden pointed to the gleeful reaction from the Proud Boys and tweeted simply: "This. This is Donald Trump's America."