Prominent Republican lawmakers on Monday condemned former President Donald Trump’s dinner last week with two men who have expressed virulently antisemitic views.
Trump ate at his Mar-a-Lago compound with the rapper Kanye West, now legally known as Ye, and far-right media figure Nick Fuentes.
Fuentes became a white supremacist activist shortly after Trump was elected president in 2016. He said in 2017 that “a tidal wave of white identity is coming,” he has cast doubt on whether the Holocaust took place, and he has said that the era of Jim Crow segregation and racial terrorism against Black people in America was “better for them.”
Many Democrats and former Republican lawmakers, as well as conservative publications such as the Wall Street Journal, have already castigated Trump for taking a meeting with Ye and Fuentes. Trump, who has said he’s running for president again in 2024, has denied knowing who Fuentes was prior to their dinner.
“So I help a seriously troubled man, who just happens to be black, Ye, 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 wrote over the weekend on his social media platform, Truth Social.
Trump then referred to Fuentes and another dinner guest as people he “didn’t know.”
Republicans currently in positions of political power were largely quiet about Trump’s dinner until Monday. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was the first nationally known Republican official to weigh in on the meeting.
“I am extremely proud that Georgia’s relationship with Israel and the Jewish community has never been stronger. Racism, antisemitism, and denial of the Holocaust have no place in the Republican Party and are completely un-American,” Kemp told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday morning.
A little after lunchtime, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., became the first Republican member of the Senate to comment. Unlike Kemp, Cassidy mentioned Trump by name.
“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Cassidy said in a statement.
Shortly after that, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told a reporter at the Capitol, “I condemn white supremacy and antisemitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”
“It sends the wrong signal for him to meet and have dinner with [Fuentes],” Collins elaborated in a statement to Yahoo News.
More Senate Republicans are expected to condemn Trump later on Monday.
In an interview airing Monday night with journalist Leland Vittert, former Vice President Mike Pence likewise criticized Trump for dining with Fuentes.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize for it,” Pence said. “And he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
“That being said ... I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite,” Pence added.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has never been shy about criticizing Trump, and he did so again on Monday.
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney told NBC News.
“I voted to remove him from office twice,” Romney continued. “I don’t think he should be president of the United States. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told CNN that Trump’s dinner with Fuentes was “a bad idea on every level.”
“I don't know who's advising him on his staff, but I hope that whoever that person was got fired,” he said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also decried the dinner, telling CNN, “It’s ridiculous you would do something with someone who espouses those views.”
Late Monday, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, provided a statement to Yahoo News as well.
"It’s unfortunate that it continually needs to be said, but of course the man who’s dedicated his career to stamping out hate and racism thinks it’s a bad idea for anyone to elevate racists or anti-Semites," said Scott spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg. "Senator Scott’s vision for America is rooted in opportunity, optimism, and freedom—standing in stark contrast with the recent comments from Kanye West and the vile rhetoric of Nick Fuentes."