WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said a leader of the far-right Proud Boys group who posted photos on social media outside the executive mansion on Saturday had not been invited and was instead on a holiday tour open to the public.
Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio posted photos taken inside the White House gates on the conservative platform Parler, adding that he had received a “last minute invite to an undisclosed location.”
“He was on a public White House Christmas tour,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said when asked about Tarrio’s suggestion he was invited. “He did not have a meeting with the president, nor did the White House invite him.”
During a presidential debate in September, Trump was invited to condemn white supremacist, militia and far-right groups, and particularly the Proud Boys, by opponent Joe Biden. Trump responded by telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Days later he condemned the group.
Thousands of protesters from religious and conservative groups, including about 200 Proud Boys, who allege without evidence that President-elect Biden stole the election from Trump, gathered in Washington on Saturday.
Proud Boys protesters joined the march near the Trump Hotel blocks from the White House. Many wore combat fatigues, ballistic vests, and helmets. They later exchanged shouts and insults with a group of counter protesters, separated by police on bicycles.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Jeff Mason and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Heather Timmons and Daniel Wallis)