By Peter Wade
ROLLING STONES - Donald Trump’s dinner with Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes has so far drawn criticism from two elected Republicans, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky.
“It’s very troubling and it should not happen,” Hutchinson said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, making him the senior most member of the GOP to call out the former president for the Mar-a-Lago dinner. Hutchinson has previously stated that he is “very seriously” thinking about running for president in 2024.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that’s setting an example for the country or the party to meet with [an] avowed racist or antisemite,” Hutchinson said.
He added, “And so it’s very troubling, and it shouldn’t happen. And we need to avoid those kinds of empowering the extremes. And when you meet with people, you empower, and that’s what you have to avoid. You want to diminish their strength, not empower them. Stay away from them.”
Fuentes has been labeled a “white supremacist” by the Justice Department, and The New York Times described him as “one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists.” Fuentes founded the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) in 2020 — a far-right competitor to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — and has connections to far-right Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar.
Trump meanwhile has tried to claim in posts on Truth Social over the weekend that he was ignorant of Fuentes’ beliefs when he dined with him and West. “[Ye] unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about,” Trump said of the dinner. In the posts, Trump said that he thought he was meeting alone with West (“who just happens to be black,” he wrote) to “help” him because he has “been decimated in his business and virtually everything else.” West has been booted from Instagram and lost partnerships with corporations, including Adidas, for making repeated anti-Semitic comments. Adidas has also launched an investigation following reporting that executives at the company turned a blind eye to West’s inappropriate, sexist and anti-Semitic behavior.
But Trump reportedly was “impressed” with Fuentes, according to a Karen Giorno, a former Trump aide who attended the event. “He was impressed with Nick and his knowledge of Trump World,” Giorno told The Washington Post. “Nick knew people and figures and speeches and rallies and what surrounded the Trump culture, particularly when it came to the base.”
GOP Rep. James Comer also condemned Trump’s meeting with Fuentes and West on Sunday, saying that the former president “needs better judgment in who he dines with.”
“I would not take a meeting with that person,” Comer said of Fuentes on Meet the Press.
“I wouldn’t take a meeting with Kanye West, either,” he added.
West has announced he is planning to run for president in 2024, something Trump said he discouraged him from doing.