NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump is again calling attention to his long record of turning a blind eye to bigotry, after he dined with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and rapper formerly known as Kanye. West, just days after he announced a new campaign for the White House.
Trump dined Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, now known as Ye, and Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist who has used his online platform to spout anti-Semitic and white nationalist rhetoric.
Ye, who says he is also a 2024 presidential candidate, has made his own series of anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks, resulting in him being suspended from social media platforms, being dropped by his talent agency and being dropped. companies like Adidas cut their ties with him.RELATED
In a White House statement, spokesman Andrew Bates said, “Bigotry, hate and anti-Semitism have no place in the United States, not even at Mar-a-Lago. Holocaust denial is disgusting and dangerous, and must be strongly condemned.”
Trump, in a series of remarks made on Friday, said he had “never met and knew nothing” about Fuentes before he arrived with Ye at his club. But Trump also failed to acknowledge Fuentes’ long history of racist and anti-Semitic comments, nor did he criticize either man’s defamatory statements.
Trump wrote of Ye on his social media platform that “we got along great, he did not express any anti-Semitism, and I appreciated all the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.'”
“Why wouldn’t I agree to meet?” he added.
The former president has a long record of failing to unequivocally condemn hate speech. During his 2016 campaign, Trump faltered when asked to openly condemn the KKK after being endorsed by the group’s former leader, claiming in a televised interview that he “knew nothing about David Duke.”
In 2017, following deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump was heavily criticized for saying there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. And inflammatory rhetoric from figures like US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spoke earlier this year at a far-right conference hosted by Fuentes, is frequent at his rallies.
The latest episode, which came just a week after Trump launched his third run for the Republican nomination for president, also highlights how loosely controlled access to the former president remains, especially without a traditional campaign operation.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club came under intense scrutiny after revelations that the former president stored hundreds of confidential documents there, prompting a federal investigation. But the club — and the people Trump gave access to — had long been a source of consternation among former White House advisers.
Mar-a-Lago is not only Trump’s home, but also a private club and event space. Paying members and their guests dine with him and often hang out with him; members of the public can book weddings and other events, and Trump frequently makes visits to those events.
Ye first shared the details of the dinner in a video he posted to his Twitter account on Thursday. Ye said he had traveled to Florida to ask Trump to be his running mate in 2024, and that the meeting had been heated as Trump was “disturbed” by his request and Ye was angered by Trump’s criticism of him. his wife, Kim Kardashian, from whom he has separated.
“When Trump started basically yelling at me across the table telling me I was going to lose. I mean, has that ever worked for anyone in history, tell Ye I’m going to lose?” Ye asked in the video. “You’re talking to Ye.”
Ye also indicated that Trump was “really impressed with Nick Fuentes,” whom he described as “really supportive” and added that he had asked Trump: “Why didn’t you release the January 6th when you had the chance?” , referring to the defendants who participated in the deadly insurrection at the federal Capitol in 2021.
Trump released a series of statements on Friday in which he attempted to explain the circumstances of the meeting.
“Kanye West really wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner gathering was meant to be just me and Kanye, but he came with a guest he had never met and knew nothing about, ”Trump said in his first statement released by his campaign.
Shortly thereafter, Trump took to social media to say that Ye and “three of his friends, whom he knew nothing about” had “turned up unexpectedly” at his club.
“We had dinner Tuesday night with many members present in the backyard. Dinner was quick and uneventful. Then they went to the airport,” she wrote.
Hours later, he reposted saying he had told Ye that he “definitely should not be running for president” and that “whatever voters he may have should vote for Trump.”
“Anyway, we got along great, he didn’t express any anti-Semitism, and I appreciated all the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson,'” he added. “Why wouldn’t he agree to meet me? Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”
Fuentes, for his part, said after the trip that, although he could not rule out that Trump had heard of him, “I don’t think he knew it was me at dinner.”
“It was not my intention that my statements and my entire record become some kind of public relations problem for the president,” he added on his program.
The meeting drew immediate criticism from Trump’s critics and also from some supporters, such as David Friedman, who was Trump’s ambassador to Israel.
“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,” Friedman wrote in a tweet. “I urge you to kick these bums out, disown them, and relegate them to the dustbin of history, where they belong.”
On Saturday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, also condemned anti-Semitism, without referring directly to the dinner or the president he worked with.
“Anti-Semitism is a cancer,” Pompeo wrote, adding: “We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest fanaticism.”
For his part, President Joe Biden, when asked about Trump’s meeting while on vacation in Nantucket, Massachusetts, replied: “You don’t want to hear what I think.”