Amid the sea of dark suits and red “Make America Great Again” gear behind President Trump at his televised speech in Miami on Monday, one man stood out. Appearing above the president in some live shots, he wore dark sunglasses, a black baseball cap and a black T-shirt with a message of support for Trump’s longtime adviser now facing federal charges: “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong!”
The man is notable for more than his attire, though. Enrique Tarrio is the chairman of the Proud Boys, a far-right, self-described “western chauvinist” organization known for violently clashing with antifascists and for its alleged links to white nationalists.
Neither Trump nor the White House knew he was in attendance, Tarrio told The Washington Post. Rather, he said he scored the prime seat simply by showing up early at Florida International University.
“I got there at 7 a.m., so I got to pick my seat,” Tarrio told The Post. “I was the second person in line. I stood in the hot Miami sun.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a message about Tarrio’s appearance.
The Proud Boys leader’s prominent placement at Trump’s speech could give new fuel to critics who say the president has failed to distance himself from the far right in the years since he claimed there were “very fine people on both sides” at the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which was organized by a man who once attended Proud Boys meetings. Tarrio also attended the rally, though he claims to have left before the violent attacks began.
Tarrio disputes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s claim that his organization is a hate group, an allegation that also led Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes to sue the SPLC earlier this month.
“I’m not a white supremacist. I’m not an extremist. I’m a regular dude,” said Tarrio, a small-business owner who identifies as Afro-Cuban and who served nearly a year in federal prison for his role in a scheme to resell stolen medical equipment.