It turns out not everybody believes the Proud Boys are white supremacists, including a prominent Black professor at a historically Black university.
Wilfred Reilly, associate professor of political science at Kentucky State University, said Wednesday that “the Proud Boys aren’t white supremacists,” describing the right-wing group’s beliefs as “Western chauvinist” and noting that their international chairman, Enrique Tarrio, is Black.
“Gotta say: the Proud Boys aren’t white supremacists,” tweeted Mr. Reilly, author of “Hate Crime Hoax.”
The Proud Boys came under the microscope after President Trump refused during Tuesday’s presidential debate to condemn them as white supremacists, saying, “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by,” prompting accusations that he was supporting virulent racists.
Mr. Reilly said that about 10% to 20% of Proud Boys activists are people of color, a diverse racial composition that is “extremely well-known in law enforcement,” based on his research.
“Enrique Tarrio, their overall leader, is a Black Cuban dude. The Proud Boys explicitly say they’re not racist,” Mr. Reilly told The Washington Times. “They are an openly right-leaning group and they’ll openly fight you — they don’t deny any of this — but saying they’re White supremacist: If you’re talking about a group of people more than 10% people of color and headed by an Afro-Latino guy, that doesn’t make sense.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer accused Mr. Trump of refusing to condemn white supremacy, tweeting, “He told white supremacists to ‘stand back and stand by.’ President Trump is a national disgrace, and Americans will not stand for it.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden told reporters Wednesday: “My message to the Proud Boys and every other White supremacist group is: cease and desist. That’s not who we are.”
White House spokeswoman Alysa Farah pushed back on the criticism, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything to clarify. He’s told them to stand back.”
Black Trump supporter Melissa Tate also challenged the “white supremacist” label, posting a video in which she and Beverly Beatty said that the Proud Boys helped provide security for them at a Christian prayer event.
“STOP THE LIES,” tweeted Ms. Tate, who has 440,700 followers. “Proud Boys are NOT White Supremacist. They are Christian men many of them hispanic & some black.”
Added Michael Burkes, who has 236,700 followers on his “Trump’s Black Grandson” account: “The Proud Boys aren’t the ones calling me a ‘Coon’ so they’re alright with me.”
Gotta say: the Proud Boys aren’t white supremacists. They call themselves “Western chauvinists,” but their leader is Enrique Tarrio, a Black Cuban guy, and the membership’s ~15% POC. This is widely known among LEOs. How’d “racist,” -as vs. “street LARP bad”- become the take here?— Wilfred Reilly (@wil_da_beast630) September 30, 2020
Proud Boys, founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mr. McInnes has sued to have the designation removed.
“We’re a drinking club with a patriot problem,” Mr. Tarrio told CNN at a Sept. 26 rally in Portland. “As Proud Boys, I think our main objective is to defend the West.”
After the debate, Mr. Tarrio insisted the group was not racist, saying that Mr. Trump “did an excellent job and was asked a VERY pointed question. The question was in reference to WHITE SUPREMACY…which we are not.”
Although I am excited about our mention on the debate stage…— Enrique Tarrio (@enrique_tarrio) September 30, 2020
I am not taking this 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.
Proud Boys, which describes its members as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” have clashed repeatedly with Antifa in Portland.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center filed a lawsuit last week against the Proud Boys, alleging that four counter-protesters were injured by Proud Boys activists wielding paint-ball guns and bear mace during an Aug. 22 melee in Portland.
“The Proud Boys represent an unconventional strain of American right-wing extremism,” said the Anti-Defamation League on its website. “While the group can be described as violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic, its members represent a range of ethnic backgrounds, and its leaders vehemently protest any allegations of racism.”
Mr. McInnes, who left the group in 2018, has been banned from most social-media platforms for his anti-Semitic statements, including a video called “Ten Things I Hate About Jews,” which he later changed to “Ten Things I Hate About Israel.”
Supporters of the Proud Boys include right-wing pundits Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, as well as former Republican consultant and convicted felon Roger Stone, whose 2019 sentence was later commuted by Mr. Trump.
During the Tuesday debate moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, Mr. Trump was asked if he would be willing to tell white supremacists and militia groups to “stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities,” referring to the ongoing protests and rioting.
“Sure, I’m willing to, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
Mr. Wallace said, “Then do it, sir.” Mr. Trump said him to “give me a name,” and Mr. Biden said, “Proud Boys.”
“Proud Boys — stand back and stand by,” Mr. Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.”
He challenged Mr. Biden to condemn Antifa, to which Mr. Biden replied, “Antifa is an idea, not an organization.” Mr. Trump replied, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.”
Blexit founder Candace Owens asked why Mr. Biden was not asked to condemn Antifa, tweeting, “Unbelievable. Every person in America knows these riots are being orchestrated by black lives matter and Antifa.”
“Chris Wallace asks the President to condemn white supremacists but did not think to ask Joe Biden to condemn Antifa or BLM,” she added.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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