HO CHI MINH CITY –
A growing number of Republicans, including former US Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Donald Trump on Monday for having dinner with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and former rapper. called Kanye West a few days after launching his third campaign for the White House.
Pence, in an interview, called on Trump to apologize and said the former president had “shown profound incompetence” when he met last week at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, who is now known as Ye, as well as Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist with a long history of espousing anti-Semitism and white nationalism.
This episode served as an early test of whether party leaders would continue to support Trump as he embarked on another campaign for the White House after they had spent most of their time in office. 8 years to be asked to answer the controversy he has created.
Trump has said he did not know who Fuentes was before the meeting. But so far, he has refused to acknowledge or denounce the views of Fuentes or Ye, who have made a series of objectionable comments of his own in recent weeks, leading to his suspension from office. social media platforms and terminating relationships with major companies like Adidas .
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an anti-Semitist and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table and I think he should apologize for that. And he should denounce those individuals and their hate speech without due diligence,” Pence said in an interview with NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that aired Monday night.
However, Pence, who is considering his own ability to fight his former boss, said he did not believe Trump was anti-Semitism or racist and said he would not be vice president of the United States. Trump if so.
His decision to criticize Trump’s actions – but still defend the man himself – underscores the former president’s continued support of the party, even as he finds himself at a very vulnerable moment. Many top party fundraisers and strategists blame him for their worse-than-expected results in this year’s midterm elections and increasingly say they believe it’s time to move on. At the same time, Trump remains deeply loved by GOP voters, and even candidates hoping to challenge him for the Republican nomination risk alienating those voters. if they criticize him too strongly.
Some, like Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C., have blamed Trump staff for allowing Fuentes to join the dinner, even though no staff member attended.
“If he doesn’t know him, whoever is responsible for knowing the background of the people in the room, I hope they’ve been fired,” Tillis told reporters at the Capitol on Monday night.
When asked if Trump should apologize, he said, “I’ll leave that to President Trump.”
There are still others who are less oblivious.
“President Trump hosts dinner for anti-racists encouraging other anti-racists. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La tweeted.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism or white supremacy in the Republican Party. Period,” added Florida Senator Rick Scott, who runs the party’s Senate campaign committee for this cycle.
Others have more refuted. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump ally, said: “Yes, the meeting was bad. He shouldn’t have done it.” But he added that “there is a double standard for this kind of work and I don’t think it will matter to his political future.”
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he thinks Trump can “dinner with whoever he wants to have dinner with, but I won’t have dinner with him. I’ll explain it that way. .”
Still others, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others considering challenging Trump for the Republican nomination, have remained silent. quiet.
The meeting was criticized by prominent Jewish organizations as well as Trump’s former ambassador to Israel. But until Monday, few Republicans had weighed in. They include former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, another potential 2024 Trump opponent, who told The New York Times that the dinner was “just another example of Donald’s serious lack of judgment.” Trump, this, combined with his poor past judgments, makes him an untenable candidate in the 2024 Republican general election.”
Retiring Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is also considering running for the White House, called the meeting “very troubling” on CNN Sunday and said “it shouldn’t have happened.”
“When you meet people, you empower. And that is something you must avoid. You want to reduce their power, not empower them. Stay away from them,” he said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another potential 2024 opponent, denounced anti-Semitism as a “cancer,” but did not directly mention the dinner or the president he served.
Colvin reports from New York.