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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 TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE was asked to condemn white supremacist groups during Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

Trump asked moderator Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceRepublicans hammer Biden on infrastructure while administration defends plan GOP senator: Two sides 'far apart' on infrastructure compromise Biden economic adviser frames infrastructure plan as necessary investment MORE of Fox News to “give me a name” when Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals 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.