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GOP Senate candidate Lauren Witzke defends 'patriotic masculinity' of Proud Boys

GOP Senate candidate Lauren Witzke on Thursday defended the right-wing Proud Boys group on Twitter, arguing that the male-only organization exemplifies “patriotic masculinity.” 

The Delaware Republican’s tweet came in response to an article reporting on Witzke praising members of the group for providing free security at one of her campaign rallies. The story from the Delaware News Journal labeled the Proud Boys as “a far-right group with a history of violent confrontations.” 

“I’m not sure when patriotic masculinity, defending yourself, and being Christian became ‘Far-Right,’” Witzke tweeted. 

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“I also don’t recall the Proud Boys rioting and looting the city of Wilmington like ANTIFA did, either,” the candidate added, referring to May protests in the Delaware city that turned violent as some people looted businesses.

It was not clear whether antifa, a loosely affiliated collection of left-wing anti-fascist demonstrators, was directly responsible for the violence. 

On Wednesday, Witzke had tweeted that she was “grateful” to the Proud Boys for “volunteering their time to keep myself and my supporters safe” at one of her rallies. 

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The praise came a day after President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE was asked to condemn white supremacist groups during Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

Trump asked moderator Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceChris Wallace: This was best inaugural address I've ever heard Fox News's DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire Arkansas governor: Intelligence on state capitol protests 'not to the level that I'm bringing out the National Guard' MORE of Fox News to “give me a name” when Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE pointed to the Proud Boys, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group.

The president called on Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," a remark that drew immediate backlash. Trump eventually said Wednesday that the Proud Boys should “stand down” while talking to reporters after a campaign trip to Minnesota. 

Democrats had called on Trump to denounce the group, which describes itself as “a pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.” 

Witzke’s remarks follow her primary victory last month over attorney James DeMartino by double digits.

The conservative politician has had to distance herself from allegations that she supported the QAnon conspiracy theory that claims without evidence that Trump is working with the military to break up a bureaucrat-run child sex trafficking ring. Witzke had previously tweeted one of the group’s slogans and was seen wearing a QAnon shirt.

“I certainly think it’s more hype than substance,” she later said of the theory in response to the allegations of her support.