President Donald Trump condemned white supremacist groups in a call to Sean Hannity’s Fox News program on Thursday after telling the far-right Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at this week’s presidential debate.
“I’ve said it many times. Let me be clear again. I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys,” Trump said on “Hannity.” “I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that.”
Trump was asked explicitly Tuesday by the debate moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and call on them to stand down in cities such as Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, where armed right-wing extremists have shown up at anti-racism protests, often clashing with marchers.
He didn’t. Instead, he used his answer to attack “antifa” and “the left” for outbreaks of violence. Members of the Proud Boys, a violent fascist hate group, celebrated Trump’s response as a call to action. His comment brought backlash from all directions. Republican lawmakers urged him to correct the statement.
On Wednesday, Trump backtracked, claiming not to know who the Proud Boys are but adding that they should “stand down and let law enforcement do their work.”
Trump followed up his remarks on Thursday by saying that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden should condemn antifa, a loosely allied group of “anti-fascists,” and complaining that he could condemn white supremacists “a hundred times” and it wouldn’t be enough for the “fake news.”
Trump has denounced white supremacy in the past. However, he has also repeatedly failed to do so. In 2016, he refused several times to condemn former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and declare he didn’t want his vote. At the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the following year, Trump insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the protests. And last month, when 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two people after showing up at a Black Lives Matter protest with an assault-style rifle, Trump defended the teen.
It was a strange forum for Trump to make his denunciation Thursday. Hannity has hosted Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes on his show numerous times, as Media Matters pointed out. He also hosted another prominent member of the group on his radio show in 2017.