The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League warned voters Wednesday that members of the Proud Boys and other white supremacist-affiliated groups saw President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE's comments during Tuesday night's presidential debate "as a call to arms."
When asked in the first general election debate to denounce hate groups including the Proud Boys, Trump declined to do so explicitly and instead pointed to to the left-wing antifa movement as an example of a dangerous organization.
"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump said. "But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left."
The remarks have drawn bipartisan criticism, including from some of the president's GOP defenders.
"This isn't an outlier, it is an indication of a pattern and it is a pattern of prejudice that does not belong in any political conversation, let alone the the oval office," Jonathan Greenblatt said the next day on CNN. "This wasn't an opportunity to condemn, this was a clarification. He sees these groups as his allies."
Greenblatt noted that minutes after Trump's comments, several leaders of the Proud Boys began posting on social media about how they felt emboldened.
"They said, 'standing by sir'. They said, 'ready for action Mr. President,'" Greenblatt said. "They were ready. They see last night as a call to arms, and that's why it should be so alarming to all of us."
“Their kind of extremism should be rejected by elected officials at every level,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, says about the Proud Boys, a far-right collective that the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a hate group. https://t.co/t6P2ONvhhE pic.twitter.com/7z4OmQJv2B— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) September 30, 2020
Campaign and White House aides scrambled to defend Trump's remarks Wednesday. His allies on Capitol Hill and in conservative media argue he has repeatedly condemned white supremacy groups.
"He’s told them to stand back. This president has surged federal resources when violent crime warrants it in cities. He’s leading. He doesn’t need any sort of vigilantism," White House communications director Alyssa Farah said. "That’s never what we’ve called for. What we’ve called for is Democrat mayors and Democrat governors to call up the resources we’re prepared to make available."
Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE has said he was inspired to run for president after Trump's comments on the deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
Trump later said there were "very fine people" on both sides of the altercation, which left one woman dead.