In Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump told the racist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” He did not repudiate the male-only group whose founder, Gavin McInnes, once said “I think it’s fair to call me Islamophobic.”
Trump, under pressure at the debate, declared “sure” when asked if he was willing to condemn white supremacy. But he never did so.
Emily Jashinsky, culture editor with The Federalist, provides the transcript but misses the point that Trump said he was willing to denounce white supremacy but then didn’t get around to actually doing so.
The president then signaled the Proud Boys that they should “stand by.” His unwillingness to accept the possibility of political defeat strongly suggests he may be willing to call the Proud Boys into the streets on his behalf before, during or after the 3 November election.
Even conservatives are aware of the dangerous forces Trump is threatening to unleash:
The US stands on the precipice of election-related violence and the effective disenfranchisement of millions of Americans with the president sending a very public message to a violent organization to prepare itself. The Washington Post reports
that the group shows up at demonstrations “wielding batons, bear spray and firearms.”
A far-right outfit spinning itself as “western chauvinist,” the Proud Boys have a paramilitary wing
. Members of the group were delighted to be receiving orders from the president.
The New York Times reports
: “Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, celebrated on Tuesday night after President Trump mentioned them during the first presidential debate.”
Gavin McInnes, who established the Proud Boys in 2016, is known for his anti-Palestinian and anti-Semitic statements.
In March 2017, more than a year before he heeded legal advice to dissociate
himself from the Proud Boys, McInnes stated
, “Palestinians are stupid. Muslims are stupid. And the only thing they really respect is violence and being tough.”
McInnes has certainly touted violence having once said, “We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell.”
Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer
, McInnes also asked in March 2017: “Why don’t we take back Bethlehem? Why don’t we take back Northern Iraq? Why don’t we start our own crusades?”
During the same month, it was reported that McInnes released a video
called “10 things I hate about Jews” which later was changed to “10 things I hate about Israel.”
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, McInnes claimed
that Jews have a “whiny paranoid fear of Nazis.”
That anti-Semitic video can apparently no longer be found at YouTube. A separate video in which he says
“I’m becoming anti-Semitic” can be seen at YouTube.
His friendship with Loomer, who is Jewish, is apparently based on white supremacy and shared anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim sentiment.
Somehow they set aside his anti-Semitism. It is painful to watch and akin to White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s connection to white nationalism
and racist Peter Brimelow
, who founded the VDARE website to which McInnes has contributed (along with Fox News)
McInnes made these anti-Palestinian and anti-Semitic comments around the time of a trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank with white nationalist Faith Goldy
. As reported
by The Electronic Intifada, Goldy appeared at an Islamophobic rally in 2018 with Jewish Defense League of Canada leader Meir Weinstein
From Bethlehem, Goldy and McInnes excoriated Christians for leaving the city – no mention being made of the Israeli occupation – and called for a new crusade to take back Bethlehem. Goldy said “we’re going to discriminate based on your religion” (against Muslims) with the active participation and agreement of McInnes.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center
, “a number of journalists who’ve written about the group” have been sent cease-and-desist
orders from lawyer Jason Van Dyke “insisting they (the Proud Boys and McInnes) ‘do not now, nor have they ever, espoused white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, or alt-right views.’” Due to overwhelming evidence, however, SPLC continues to designate
the Proud Boys as a “hate group.”
Van Dyke’s take is obviously belied by the McInnes quotes cited above.
Additionally, Proud Boys participated
in the racist Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right rally.
During that 2017 event, a neo-Nazi
used a car to run over and kill counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer. McInnes reportedly
disavowed the rally two months before it took place.
The right-wing group has also organized
armed demonstrations against Black Lives Matter and may have moved even more to the right after the departure of McInnes.
Christopher A. Wray, the director of the FBI, in mid-September advised
the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee that “racially motivated violent extremism” – largely from white supremacists – has comprised most of the domestic terrorism threats. This is a striking admission from the head of a government agency with a history of surveillance of Black activists rather than focusing adequate attention on violent white supremacists.
Trump is now indicating to the Proud Boys – and similar groups – that he is prepared to call them into the streets to battle anti-fascists and millions of American voters.
Wednesday, as is typical with Trump, he claimed, “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are.”
This is either an astonishing admission of ignorance or yet another brazen lie from a man who releases them at a rapid-fire clip. A lie is more likely.
Cover Photograph: Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys, speaks at a June 2017 rally of Islamophobes in New York City.Stephanie KeithReuters