He joined several Republican senators who also directly criticized the former president in statements disavowing dinner with Fuentes and Ye. Pence’s comments were also one of the clearest examples of the former vice president trying to distance himself from Trump, whom he served for four years, in hopes that Pence will challenge Trump for the presidential nomination. of the GOP in 2024.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — each rumored to be eyeing a presidential race — were quicker to criticize Trump.
Christie tweeted Saturday: “This is simply horrible and unacceptable conduct by anyone, but especially by a former president and current candidate.”
“Well, hopefully one day we don’t have to respond to what former President Trump said or did,” Hutchinson said in a Sunday interview on CNN. “In this case, it is important to react. … I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader who sets an example for the country or the party to meet an outspoken racist or anti-Semite.
Some Senate Republicans have focused their comments on Fuentes specifically, or anti-Semitism more broadly, avoiding speaking directly about Trump, a sign of the former president’s continued influence on the party.
Mike Pompeo, who served as Trump’s secretary of state and is also reportedly considering running for the White House, tweeted Sunday, “Anti-Semitism is a cancer. As secretary, I fought to ban funding for anti-Semitic groups that pushed BDS. We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry. »
Monday’s unusual flurry of criticism from Senate Republicans came five days after Trump’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago and nearly three weeks after Republicans won a modest majority in the House but failed to win. failed to retake the Senate in the midterm elections, sparking widespread debate over whether and how the party should move away from Trump’s influence.
“President Trump hosting racist anti-Semites for dinner encourages other racist anti-Semites,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be fostered. It’s not the Republican Party.
Senator Shelley Moore understood (RW.Va.) said Trump “definitely” should have known who he’s having dinner with, telling reporters on Monday, “I totally think it’s ridiculous to sit down with someone who espouses such views.”
Trump acknowledged that he had a private dinner with Fuentes and Ye at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday night. According to a post on TruthSocial, the former president said Ye called him “for dinner at Mar-a-Lago” and the rapper “then unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, including I don’t know.” didn’t know anything”.
Ye and Fuentes joined an online show Monday night to discuss the dinner — which Ye said had been scheduled for October but was pushed back until Trump announced his candidacy — and its aftermath, where Ye seemed confirm Trump’s version of events.
“[Nick] was riding with me, I was in awe of Nick, I was like, ‘Just come to dinner.’ … We sat there and when Trump walked in … I said, ‘Do you want to sit alone?’ And he’s like, “No, bring your friends.” ”
Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, recently lost billions of dollars in net worth after companies cut ties with him for repeatedly making anti-Semitic remarks. Fuentes espoused racist and anti-Semitic views, endorsed segregation, attacked immigrants, and shed light on the Holocaust. He has been called a white supremacist leader by the Anti-Defamation League, which he denies. Trump claimed he did not know Fuentes but has not condemned his diners or their opinions since news of the meal was released.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement that she condemns “anti-Semitism and white supremacy” and that “the president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”
Public criticism of Trump has been notable after years in which many Republicans remained silent as he courted extremists. Yet many stopped short of a full denunciation.
In his interview with NewsNation, Pence defended Trump’s character. He pointed out that Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, converted to Judaism and that her children with husband Jared Kushner are Jewish.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. I don’t believe he’s racist or bigoted. I wouldn’t have been his vice president if he had been,” Pence added. “I think the president showed a profound lack of judgment in giving these people a seat at the table.”
Meanwhile, several Republican senators blamed unnamed Trump staff instead of the former president.
“Whoever had the responsibility to know the background of the people in the room, I hope they are already fired because it was a bad decision on their part,” Senator Thom Tillis (RN.C. ). He declined to say whether Trump should apologize.
Sen. John Thune (RS.D.) told reporters Monday that the dinner was “just a bad idea on all counts.”
“I don’t know who was advising [Trump] in his team, but hopefully the one who got fired,” Thune said.
The senses. Both Steve Daines (R-Mt.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have generally said there is no room for Fuentes’ opinions in the GOP.
When asked if Trump should condemn his diners, Scott replied, “I think Republicans should all condemn white supremacy and anti-Semitism.” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) said he didn’t think anyone should “give people like this oxygen,” but said he would always support Trump.
In a statement, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and have no place in the Republican Party.”
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed Trump for the dinner — as well as Republicans who declined to comment on the meeting.
“There is simply no place for these types of vile forces in our society,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House. She added, “And let’s not forget, when you say things like that, when you… don’t speak out against these kinds of toxic and dangerous remarks or portrayals, if you will, that’s also incredibly dangerous on its own.”
In the Senate on Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) lambasted Trump during the meeting and called on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to do the same .
“For a former president to sit and dine with a high profile anti-Semite is disgusting and dangerous,” Schumer said. “To give an anti-Semite even the smallest platform, let alone an audience during dinner, is sheer evil.”
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Azi Paybarah, Hannah Knowles and Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mar-a-Lago is in Palm Springs, Florida. It is located in Palm Beach, Florida. The article has been corrected.