James Comey says President Trump's debate comments fuel the fires of racism

"The FBI is fighting a fire of racist violence and with words like that [the] president is using a firehose to spray gasoline on that fire," Comey said.

Updated: September 30, 2020 - 7:37pm

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Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday said that President Trump's remarks during the first presidential debate on Tuesday served to fuel racism in America.

"The FBI is fighting a fire of racist violence and with words like that [the] president is using a firehose to spray gasoline on that fire," Comey said while delivering remote testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Maybe he misspoke. Maybe when he said stand down and stand by he meant something else," Comey said, adding that he hoped that President Trump would issue a clarification and denounce extremist groups.

Comey's comments came during a series of questions from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. 

Booker asked how the president's debate remarks would impact extremist groups, and the senator specifically mentioned the Proud Boys as such a group.

"It gives them license and it makes them cool in the eyes of the people who make up that radioactive stew. And so it will attract more people to their warped view of the world and their their groups," Comey said. "It is a free pass to people that nobody wants in their communities. And I don't know whether today the president has tried to correct what he said but I would sure hope he would."

Comey's comments came as a particular portion of President Trump's Tuesday night debate performance has come under scrutiny. 

"You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left-wing extremist groups," moderator Chris Wallace said to President Trump during the debate. "But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacist 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 as we've seen in Portland?"

"Sure I'm willing to do that," Trump said, adding, "I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing."

Wallace and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pushed the president to issue a condemnation.

When Trump asked for a specific name to denounce and Biden mentioned the Proud Boys, the president responded: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody's gotta do something about Antifa and the left."

The president on Wednesday said that he is not familiar with the Proud Boys but that they should allow law enforcement officers to perform their jobs.

The website proudboysusa.com lists a number of "core values," some of which include, "minimal government," "maximum freedom," "closed borders," "anti-racism," "venerating the housewife" and "reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism."

"Though these are our central tenets, all that is required to become a Proud Boy is that a man declare he is 'a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world,' " the website explains. "We do not discriminate based upon race or sexual orientation/preference. We are not an 'ism', 'ist', or 'phobic' that fits the Left’s narrative. We truly believe that the West Is The Best and welcome those who believe in the same tenets as us." 

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