The leader of the rightwing Proud Boys group said it will stand down after President Donald Trump told them to during Tuesday night’s debate.
“I will stand down sir!!!” Enrique Tarrio, the leader, said on Parler, a social media platform.
“Standing by sir,” he added.
Trump in Ohio told the debate audience that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.”
“But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left,” he added. “Because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”
The Proud Boys, an all-male organization that has clashed with the anarcho-communist Antifa in the past, held a largely peaceful rally in Portland over the weekend. That was followed by an unruly Black Lives Matter rally that led to arrests.
Tarrio, who has worn a “Make America Great Again” hat before, said he was excited that the group was mentioned on the debate stage but didn’t take what Trump said “as a direct endorsement from the President.”
“He did an excellent job and was asked a VERY pointed question. The question was in reference to WHITE SUPREMACY … which we are not,” Tarrio said. “Him telling the ProudBoys to stand back and standby is what we have ALWAYS done. I’m am extremely PROUD of my Presidents performance tonight.”
Tarrio said that the Proud Boys “stood by this weekend while Antifa turned Portland into a third world [expletive] hole.”
According to the Proud Boys website, the group’s core values include supporting free speech and gun rights, being against the war on drugs and racism, supporting minimal government and strong borders.
During a live broadcast commenting on the debate with Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys founder and former leader, commentator Ryan Katsu Rivera said that Trump acted like the general of the Proud Boys.
“I control the Proud Boys, Donald,” McInnes said, laughing. “Do not stand down, do not stand back.”
The line of questioning by moderator Chris Wallace that led to the Proud Boys mention was a request to Trump to condemn white supremacists and militias.
Critics of Trump said his response was another point against him.
Trump “owes America an apology or an explanation,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on social media.
“And, in case anyone has any doubts, the Proud Boys are a virulent strain of American right-wing extremism. They have a long track record of violence, including in Portland this past weekend,” he added.
Former White House aide Anthony Scaramucci said on Twitter that Trump’s response and his “shout out to Proud Boys violent bigots” showed that “he is lost.”
Added Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist and Democratic nominee for a U.S. House seat representing Missouri, “Trump told the proud boys to stand by. Why? For orders?”