CLAIM: “I asked him to condemn the Proud Boys. He wouldn’t do it. He said stand by, stand ready or whatever.”
VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. Trump’s “stand” language followed the prompt of the moderator’s question. He later clarified that he condemned the group.
President Joe Biden appeared at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night and repeated a false claim that he made during the 2020 presidential election: that President John Trump failed to condemn the Proud Boys.
Biden was asked by a college professor about the problem of white supremacy. He replied (emphasis added):
I got involved in politics to begin with because of civil rights and opposition to white supremacists. The Ku Klux Klan and the most dangerous people in America continue to exist. That is the greatest threat to terror in America, domestic terror. And so I would make sure that my Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division is focused heavily on those very folks, and I would make sure that we, in fact, focus on how to deal with the rise of white supremacy. And you see what’s happening, the studies that are beginning to be done — maybe at your university as well — about the impact of former military, former police officers on the growth of white supremacy in some of these groups. You may remember in one of my debates with the former president I asked him to condemn the Proud Boys and he wouldn’t do it. He said, “Stand by, stand ready,” or whatever the phrase exactly was. It is a bane on our existence. It has always been. As Lincoln said, we have to appeal to our better angels, and these guys are not and women are, in fact, demented. They are dangerous people.
Biden’s claim is misleading, and Breitbart News has fact-checked it before: “The transcript shows Trump said ‘sure’ when asked to condemn white supremacists. The ‘stand’ language came from the moderator [Chris Wallace of Fox News], and the ‘Proud Boys’ were first brought up by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.”
Here is the relevant exchange (emphasis added):
Wallace: You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa —
Trump: That’s right.
Wallace: — and other left-wing extremist groups. But are you willing, tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups —
Wallace: — and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha, and as we’ve seen in Portland.
Trump: Sure, I’m willing to do that.
Wallace: Are you prepared specifically to do it.
Trump: I would say —
Wallace: Go ahead, sir.
Trump: I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not, not from the right wing.
Wallace: So what are you — what are you saying?
Trump: I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.
Wallace: Well, then, do it, sir.
Trump: I am —
Biden: Say it. Do it. Say it.
Trump: Do you call them — What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name.
Wallace: White supremacist — and right-wing militia.
Trump: Go ahead. Who would you like me to condemn?
Biden: White supremacists. The Proud Boys.
Wallace: White supremacists and right-wing militia.
Trump: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem —
Biden: His own — his own FBI director said —
Trump: –this is a left-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.
Biden: — the threat comes from white supremacists. Antifa is an idea, not an organization.
Trump: Oh, you gotta be kidding.
The following day, Trump elaborated: “I don’t know who Proud Boys are. But whoever they are, they have to stand down. Let law enforcement do their work.” He noted that Biden had refused to denounce the left-wing extremist group Antifa.
Later, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Trump explicitly condemned the group:
I’ve said it many times, and let me be clear again, I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that. But he should condemn, also, Antifa. Antifa is a horrible group of people. They kill people. They — what they do to people — and they’re causing insurrection. They’re causing riots. He doesn’t want to do that, but the press doesn’t go after him. And that’s a really bad group of people. But I condemn them.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper failed to correct Biden’s false claim.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.