U.S. President Donald Trump explicitly condemned white supremacists on Thursday night, two days after failing to do so during the first of three presidential debates with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
"Let me be clear again," Trump said in a phone interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity. "I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don't know much about them, almost nothing but I condemn them."
Trump then called on Biden to condemn "Antifa" - the umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that confront or resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations. Trump and his supporters blame much of the violence that has erupted on the sidelines of this summer's protests against police brutality.
During the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked the president if he would condemn white supremacists in the United States. Trump instead told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” words that were soon reclaimed and celebrated by members of the male-only group of self-described “western chauvinists.”
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The Proud Boys themselves deny being racist, insisting they are an ethnically diverse group of patriots, despite their mission statement of preserving Western culture and their adherence to the so-called "white replacement" conspiracy theory. At rallies, they are typically heavily armed, and are known to incite street violence.
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It is not the first time Trump has denounced white supremacy as an ideology; but he also famously referred to white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 as "very fine people." The comment earned him a ringing endorsement from former KKK leader David Duke and became the driving force behind Joe Biden's decision to run for president.
Trump is no stranger to embracing conspiracy theorists and the fringe of the American right, most recently the QAnon "big tent" conspiracy theory that believes Trump is a messianic figure fighting off a cabal of child-sex predators.