Updated: Sun, 27 Nov 2022 09:44 AM IST
Former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday dined with Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West. Trump drew attention to his long history of turning a blind eye to bigotry as he met the famous rapper and the white nationalist just days into his third campaign for the White House.
Trump had dinner on Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, who has recently changed his name to Ye, and Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist who has used his online platform to spew antisemitic and white nationalist rhetoric.
Donald Trump on Friday said on his social media platform Truth Social, “This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about.”
Trump also told that he had dinner with many members who were present on the back patio. "The dinner was quick and uneventful," Trump said. “They then left for the airport,” he said.
Trump wrote of Ye on his social media platform, Truth Social that "we got along great, he expressed no anti-Semitism, and I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on Tucker Carlson.” He added, "Why wouldn't I agree to meet?"
Ye earlier expressed that he too is running for president in 2024, and has made a series of comments prejudiced toward Jewish people in recent weeks, which led to a suspension of his social media accounts. His talent agency also dropped him and companies like Adidas cut ties with him.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates condemned Trump’s meeting and he said, “Bigotry, hate, and antisemitism have no place in America including at Mar-A-Lago. Holocaust denial is repugnant and dangerous, and it must be forcefully condemned.”
When reporters asked for President Joe Biden’s reaction to Trump’s dining with white nationalist and rapper Kanye West, he replied, “You don’t want to hear what I think.”
Also, Trump’s meeting drew immediate criticism from his critics as well as some of his supporters including former Trump ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Friedman expressed his dissent in a tweet and said, "To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable. I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”
The former president has a long history of failing to undoubtedly condemn hate speech. During his 2016 campaign, Trump waffled when asked to denounce the KKK after he was endorsed by the group's former leader, saying in a televised interview that he didn't "know anything about David Duke."
The latest episode, coming just one week after Trump launched his third run for the Republican nomination, also underscored how loosely controlled access to the former president remained, particularly without a traditional campaign operation in place.
Trump's Mar-a-Lago club came under intense examination amid revelations that Trump was storing hundreds of documents with classified markings there sparking a federal investigation. But the club and the people it gave access to Trump had long been a source of consternation among former White House aides.
Trump’s home, private space and event club all reside in Mar-a-Lago. Paid members and their guests dine alongside him and often mingle with him; members of the public can book weddings, fundraisers and other events, and Trump often drops by.
Rapper Ye first shared details of the dinner in a video he posted to his Twitter account Thursday. He said that he had travelled to Florida to ask Trump to be his 2024 running mate and that the meeting had grown heated, with Trump "perturbed" by his request and Ye angered by Trump's criticism of his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian.
"When Trump started screaming at me at the table telling me I was gonna lose. I mean, has that ever worked for anyone in history, telling Ye that I'm going to lose?" Ye asked in the video. "You're talking to Ye!"
Ye also said Trump was "really impressed with Nick Fuentes,” whom he described as “actually a loyalist” and said he'd asked Trump, “Why when you had the chance did you not free the January 6th-ers?” referring to the defendants who were alleged to have participated in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump released a series of statements Friday trying to explain the circumstances of the meeting. "Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about," Trump said in his first statement released by his campaign.
The meeting drew immediate criticism from Trump critics as well as some supporters, including David Friedman, who served as Trump's ambassador to Israel.
"To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable," Friedman wrote in a tweet. “I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”
On Saturday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential 2024 rival, also criticised antisemitism, without directly referencing the dinner or the president under whom he served.
“Anti-Semitism is cancer," wrote Pompeo, adding, "We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world's oldest bigotry.”