Some Republicans are criticizing former President Donald Trump for dining with controversial rapper Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — and white nationalist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago last week, although the vast majority of that backlash is coming from outside the walls of the Capitol.
What You Need To Know
- Some Republicans are criticizing former President Donald Trump for dining with controversial rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago last week, although the vast majority of that backlash is coming from outside the walls of the Capitol
- Trump acknowledged he met with Ye and Fuentes, but the former president, who is running for the White House again in 2024, said he was unaware Fuentes would be attending and that he didn’t know anything about him
- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Mike Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short and Rep. James Comer are among the Republicans who have criticized Trump's decision to meet with Ye and Fuentes
- As of early Monday afternoon, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had yet to comment publicly about the Mar-a-Lago dinner
Trump acknowledged he met with Ye and Fuentes, but the former president, who is running for the White House again in 2024, said he was unaware Fuentes would be attending and that he didn’t know anything about him.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who is considering running for president, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that it was “very troubling” that Trump had dinner with Fuentes.
“When you meet with people, you empower,” Hutchinson said. “And that's what you have to avoid. You want to diminish their strength, not empower them. Stay away from them.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime Trump ally, told The New York Times: “This is just another example of an awful lack of judgment from Donald Trump, which, combined with his past poor judgments, make him an untenable general election candidate for the Republican Party in 2024.”
Christie also has said he’s considering running for the Republican nomination again in 2024.
Marc Short, former chief of staff to Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, told CNN on Sunday the dinner showed “incredibly poor judgment, and I think that ever since the election in 2020 … the president's descended deeper into heart of darkness here.”
David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel under Trump, tweeted Friday: “To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an anti-Semite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable.”
Len Khodorkovsky, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Trump administration, told CNN on Monday morning, “We should not give a platform to any Holocaust deniers or anti-Semites wherever they are. And I don't think that the president should have met with Kanye or his sidekick, and I wish no one else will either.”
Other Republicans issued statements in support of Jews but not mentioning Trump by name.
“Anti-Semitism is a cancer,” tweeted Mike Pompeo, secretary of state under Trump and another rumored potential 2024 presidential candidate. “ … We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry.”
“We strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement.
And Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said, "As I had repeatedly said, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party."
But as of early Monday afternoon, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had yet to comment publicly about the Mar-a-Lago dinner.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, meanwhile, were on an island as congressional Republicans speaking out against Trump over the dinner.
Cassidy, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, issued a forceful condemnation.
"President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites," Cassidy wrote in a Twitter post. "These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party."
Comer, likely to become the next chair of the House Oversight Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Trump “certainly needs better judgment in who he dines with.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tore into Trump in remarks on the Senate floor on Monday.
"For a former president to sit down and have dinner with a high profile antisemite is disgusting and dangerous," Schumer, the first Jewish Senate Majority Leader, said, adding: "I vociferously condemn the former president's decision to meet with this antisemite and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same."
Some Democrats called out the silence from Republican leaders.
"If Kevin McCarthy cannot denounce Trump dining with a White Supremacist then we are in for a hell of a ride if McCarthy becomes Speaker," tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. "The lunatics in his Conference will run the Congress."
President Joe Biden held back when asked about the Trump dinner while spending the weekend in Nantucket, Massachusetts, saying, "You don’t want to know what I think."
Trump posted multiple times on his Truth Social platform about the meeting over the holiday weekend.
On Friday, he called the dinner “quick and uneventful.”
Hours later, he wrote that Ye asked him for business advice and that they spoke “to a lesser extent” about politics. Trump said he and Ye “got along great and that the rapper “expressed no anti-Semitism.” The former president reiterated that he didn’t know Fuentes.
Then on Saturday, Trump called Ye “a seriously troubled man, who just happens to be black, Ye (Kanye West), who has been decimated in his business and virtually everything else, and who has always been good to me, by allowing his request for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, alone, so that I can give him very much needed ‘advice.’”
Trump did not condemn the views of Fuentes or Ye in his posts.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Fuentes is a white nationalist livestreamer and an outspoken admirer of fascists such as Benito Mussolini. The 24-year-old has made a number of antisemitic comments, has questioned that the Holocaust happened, has attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Ye has been under fire in recent weeks over a series of antisemitic comments he has made, leading to social media companies locking him out of his accounts and Adidas terminating its partnership with him.
In a video posted on social media describing the dinner conversation, Ye said he asked Trump to be his running mate in the 2024 presidential election, which Trump was “perturbed about,” according to the rapper.
Ye claimed Trump “started basically screaming at me at the table telling me I was going to lose.”
The rapper also implied that Trump made a derogatory about Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, and that the former president “is really impressed with Nick Fuentes.”
Trump has faced criticism before about not forcefully denouncing white nationalism.
Most notably, he said there were “very fine people” involved in the 2017 neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And when pressed during a 2020 presidential debate to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, Trump responded by ambiguously telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” which the far-right group’s members celebrated and took as an endorsement of their tactics.