Members of the far-right Proud Boys responded swiftly on social media Tuesday night, celebrating a mention of the extremist group by the president of the United States during Tuesday’s debate.
The comment from President Trump came after moderator Chris Wallace asked if Trump would condemn white supremacists.
Instead, Trump refused to condemn armed militias and insisted, against the guidance of his own FBI director: “This is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said when prompted on the far-right group. “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem….. This is a left wing problem.”
After the debate, former Vice President Biden retweeted a screenshot allegedly showing Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs saying in a message on Telegram, “Trump basically said to go f*** the up! this makes me so happy,” and, “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA … well sir! we’re ready!!”
Antifa followers have appeared at anti-racism protests, but there’s been little evidence behind Republican claims that antifa members are to blame for the violence at such protests.
Trump infamously said there were good people “on both sides” after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the death of a counterprotester.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.