DES MOINES, Iowa– One of the biggest headlines coming out of Tuesday night’s debate was President Donald Trump sidestepping condemning white supremacy, by instead saying “stand back and stand by” to a group known as the Proud Boys.
Proud Boys is a far right extremist organization that was created in 2016.
Wednesday at the White House, President Trump said he did not know who the Proud Boys are.
However, a local historian said the Proud Boys heard his message loud and clear Tuesday night.
“Many of them took that to mean, ‘oh okay he wants us to be ready, he wants us to be prepared, he wants us to be like storm troopers if it comes to it. To get in the streets,’” History Professor at Iowa State University, Jeremy Best said.
Local community leaders said regardless of whether the president denounced white supremacy, they put less power in his words and more in his actions.
“Denouncement is not just a word, it’s an action. Have we had glimpses of hope here and there? Yes. But overarchingly his leadership has been the style in which is not inclusive of all Americans,” Community Leader, Diedre Dejear said.
In a statement, the Republican Party of Iowa alleges that President Trump has denounced white supremacy several times and mentions the president’s plans of designating the Ku Klux Klan a terrorist group.
The Republican Party of Iowa also echoed President Trump’s sentiment that during the debate Joe Biden refused to denounce what they call a ‘violent anarchist group’, Antifa.
Last week President Trump announced he would also designate Antifa as a terrorist group. However, Best said Antifa isn’t actually an organization.
“Chris Wray, an FBI Director, made this point two weeks ago. Antifa is an ideology, it’s a movement but it is not an organization,” Best said. “There is no leadership that runs the entirety of Antifa. Antifa is more so a set of ideas for aggressive confrontation with far right political groups.”
Dejear said she’s hoping for a better outcome in next week’s vice presidential debate.
“Although I don’t agree with Vice President Pence on many of these issues, I do think that he is going to be a lot more coherent than what we saw last night.”