The Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, received a flood of new members in the first week of October. Why? The group was emboldened by President Donald Trump’s instructions to “stand back and stand by” during the debate on Sept. 29, says Gordana Rabrenovic, an assistant professor of sociology at Northeastern University who studies intergroup violence and conflict.
Trump appeared to walk back the comment the day after the debate. He told reporters gathered outside Marine One that he didn’t know who the Proud Boys were but that they should “stand down, let law enforcement do their work,” according to a White House transcript of the remarks.
Intended or not, Trump’s remarks on national television—which were part of his response to a question about whether he would denounce white supremacy—were taken up by members of the group as a rallying cry.