Joe Biden said his message to the far right extremist group "Proud Boys" is to "cease and desist," after President Trump in Tuesday night's debate told them toa message that was interpreted as a rallying cry by some associated with the group.
The Proud Boys have engaged in violence acts and often supported white supremacist ideas. Mr. Trump declined to directly condemn white supremacy when given the chance Tuesday night.
"My message for the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist," the Democratic presidential nominee told a group of reporters in Ohio Wednesday afternoon.
During the first presidential debate, moderator and "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace asked Mr. Trump if he was "willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups 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 we've seen in Portland?"
In response, Mr. Trump said he was "willing to do that," and just wants "peace," but then countered that "almost everything I see is from the left wing."
When Biden referenced the Proud Boys specifically, Mr. Trump had a response.
"The Proud Boys," Mr. Trump said. "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."
Individuals associated with the Proud Boys online interpreted the president's remarks as words of encouragement, responding with things like "Standing back and standing by."
Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum said on CNN that the president said what he said because he doesn't like to dismiss groups that support him, faulting Wallace for asking the question.
"He asked them for a reason. Because he asked two questions where he was asking the president to do something that he knows the president doesn't like to do. Which is, say something bad about people who support him, right?" Santorum said.
The president is facing criticism, even from Republicans,. Reporters may have an opportunity to ask the president to revisit his comments Wednesday afternoon as he leaves for Minnesota for a fundraiser and rally.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Trump went into clean-up mode on the White House South Lawn. The president claimed he didn't know who the Proud Boys were, even though he offered a message to them Tuesday night without asking for further clarification.
"I don't know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you'll have to give me a definition. 'Cause I really don't know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work. Law enforcement will do the work," the president said.
Asked about white supremacy, the president said, "I've always denounced any form of that."