Whenever Donald Trump tells a story in which someone calls him “sir,” it’s always an indicator that he’s lying. But as it turns out, there really is someone who gives Trump that sort of reflexive respect. Unfortunately, that someone is the leader of the white supremacist group Proud Boys.
Every moment of Trump’s performance at Tuesday night’s debate was a shocking stew of bullying, lies, personal attacks, rudeness, lies, and … lies. But the most disgusting exchange of a night where Trump had all the appeal of a rabid skunk, was when Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to condemn whites supremacists and tell them to stop bringing violence to American cities. Instead, Trump addressed one of the worst of these groups, and rather than tell them to stop, he gave them a new motto; one that the group has already slapped on shirts. Thanks to Trump, white supremacists are “celebrating.”
Asked by Wallace if he was willing to tell white supremacists to stop, Trump, excluding an oleaginous smugness that could only be cut with a chainsaw, said he would. But then, rather than telling Proud Boys and similar organizations to stop invading cities and generating violence, the best Trump could manage was this:
Trump: “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything, I want to see peace.”
Wallace: “Well, then do it.”
Trump: “Who would you like me to condemn? The Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by.”
Actually, even that doesn’t capture the moment. Because Trump couldn’t complete a sentence without making it clear that he wanted groups like to Proud Boys to keep acting as his de facto storm troopers. Before anyone could even react to Trump ordering racists to remain at the ready, he made his position even more blindingly
Trump: “But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”
So, asked outright to tell white supremacists to stop, Trump instead ordered them to be prepared to attack “the left.” And it’s very much worth noting that Trump correctly identified the Proud Boys as members of the right. It’s also worth noting that he didn’t seem at all confused by the idea they would accept his orders. He seemed in no doubt about his role as their actual leader.
The immediate response from the leaders of Proud Boys was … jubilation. Within seconds, Trump’s “stand back and stand by” has been adopted as the group’s new motto. Within minutes it was being sold on T-shirts. Overnight, the Proud Boys claimed a surge in recruitment.