An increasing number of Republican Party politicians have been speaking out against former President Donald Trump following his decision to dine with Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, a notorious white nationalist, at Mar-a-Lago two days before Thanksgiving and with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.
The dinner invite was, apparently, issued to Ye, who has been busy burning many bridges recently by making increasingly noxious antisemitic remarks, and who has, in the days since his Mar-a-Lago outing, gone onto The Alex Jones Show to double down on his vile politics with sympathetic words for Adolf Hitler. Ye brought Fuentes, his fellow Hitler sympathizer, along for the ride, and Trump willingly let him into his abode.
This week, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and a slew of other congressional figures and governors all sought to distance themselves from Trump’s decision to dine with two unabashed purveyors of antisemitism.
Perhaps more than at any other time since the 2016 primary season, in which Trump won out against a bevy of more “mainstream” Republicans, in the wake of the nonexistent red wave of 2022, “normal” GOPers are attempting to wrest back control of the party from Trump and his increasingly far right support chorus. The Trump dinner with Ye and Fuentes has provided them the perfect opportunity.
Trump has reportedly “been taken aback by the backlash” according to The Washington Post, and has maintained that the controversy would blow over, reportedly telling advisers “I think it’s dying down.”
But the backlash has continued, and spread to include growing numbers of Republicans who, until recently, were content to keep their heads down and ignore Trump’s litany of offensive comments and actions. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson denounced Trump for “empowering” extremism. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro savaged the ex-President on Twitter for dining with two well-known antisemites. Even incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long been one of Trump’s staunchest allies on the world stage, called the dinner “wrong and misplaced,” as the New York Post, until recently one of the ex-president’s biggest media cheerleaders, reported.
There was an element of the absurd to the meeting that sparked this unprecedented backlash, something of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatters’ Tea Party: Ye, had, in sending out a series of poisonous antisemitic tweets, spent the recent past burning what bridges he had remaining with the mainstream and corporate U.S. Now, while dining with his old partner-in-disrepute, he apparently announced at the dinner table that he was running for president and that he wanted Trump as his running mate.
Trump, who had himself declared his candidacy for president a week earlier in a nauseatingly self-referential parody of a statesman’s speech, reportedly blew a gasket and started screaming that that was a bad idea, and that Ye should tell his supporters to all vote for Trump. Ye lambasted Trump for not doing more to help those arrested for their role in the January 6 insurrection. Trump responded by attacking Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian.
Fuentes, who had been brought along as one of Ye’s guests, must have thought he’d entered bedlam. Perhaps he wondered if he would soon have to duck for cover, with his eccentric dining companions throwing their plates of food at each other like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie. It certainly wasn’t beyond the bounds of the possible. After all, Trump had a track record in that department; testimony from Cassidy Hutchison to the January 6 congressional committee hearings had painted a devastating portrait of an emotionally out-of-control president prone to child-like tantrums that, at times, involved him throwing his lunches at the White House walls.
In the event, no food flew across the patio, and the diners got back to the serious business of alternately flattering and insulting each other. Amid the chaos, Fuentes, the young provocateur — who delights in “owning the libs” by denying the Holocaust, embracing the Great Replacement theory and organizing white nationalist conferences, and who, according to the Guardian, was present at the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi rally in 2017 — apparently managed to win Trump’s approval. Trump’s assistants later told journalists that he was somewhat smitten with Fuentes, impressed with the young man’s knowledge of all-things-Trumpworld, and with his sycophantic whispering that Trump was his “hero.”
After the meal, Trump claimed that he hadn’t known who Fuentes was but said he’d had a lovely dinner with Ye, who hadn’t expressed any antisemitism — as if managing to go a whole meal without uttering a single antisemitic comment was, somehow, deserving of a merit badge — and who was in Trump’s good books for saying nice things about him on Fox TV. The twice-impeached ex-president’s exact quote, in a statement released on Truth Social a few days later in an ill-fated effort to defuse the growing outcry over his choice of dinner companions, is a textbook study of disingenuity and self-absorption. “Anyway, we got along great, he expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’ Why wouldn’t I agree to meet? Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”
Believe that, and I’ve got a really cool Brooklyn Bridge that I’d like to sell you.
Fuentes is a notorious superstar of the “alt-right.” He was a prominent figure in the January 6 insurrection; he spent years using his YouTube platform to promote Trump, MAGA, and the miscellaneous conspiracy theories embraced by Trump’s far right base; he hobnobs with king troll Alex Jones, as detailed in the subpoena sent his way by the January 6 congressional committee. It’s about as likely that Trump had never heard of Fuentes as it is that Trump has never heard of Steve Bannon.
Five days after the dinner, with everyone from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to Mike Pence denouncing the meeting, but with Trump apparently wary of alienating his base by distancing himself from Fuentes, the young fascist turned the tables on his erstwhile host. Perhaps deciding to twist the knife into Trump’s back before Number 45 eventually turned on him, Fuentes took to Telegram to tell his followers that they must “dream bigger” than Trump in 2024 and go for a different candidate.
So much for gratitude. There Trump is, opening up the munificence of his Mar-a-Lago pantry to his Neo-Nazi guest, and the little bastard doesn’t even have the grace to don his Trump 2024 Revenge Tour sweatshirt.
Poor Trumpty Dumpty, as the New York Post labelled him following the evaporation of the Red Wave this past November 8. Nothing’s going right for him these days. Mitt Romney, with evident delight, took to calling the ex-president a “gargoyle” in the wake of the revelations of the Trump-Ye-Fuentes tête-a-tête-a-tête. Mitch McConnell avoided directly mentioning Trump, but, as Fox News — which is now pushing Ron DeSantis as the 2024 candidate — explained, he said that anyone who shared a dinner table with Ye and Fuentes was “highly unlikely” to be elected president in 2024.
Kevin McCarthy sat and squirmed for a week, trying to ignore the growing furor, before attempting to split the difference. He ended up condemning Fuentes, while claiming, with no evidence, that Trump himself had denounced his dinner guest. Such are the pretzel-twisting nonsenses, the humiliation rites, that McCarthy finds himself spouting in his undignified efforts to woo MAGA Congressmembers in order to secure the votes to be elected House speaker.
Even Mike Pence, who has so far only mustered the courage and the semi-solid spine to call Trump “reckless” for siding with January 6 rioters who were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” said that Trump was “wrong” to dine with Ye and Fuentes, and that he should make an unconditional apology. Given Trump’s utter inability to ever apologize for anything, that’s about as likely as, say, the gangster president going on live TV and admitting that he was wrong to incite an armed, insurrectionary mob to try to hunt down and lynch the vice president.
Ron DeSantis, himself no stranger to extremist stunts — witness his shocking exploitation of undocumented migrants whom he shipped from Texas, via Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard to prove a political point earlier this year — hasn’t said anything about the controversy. But the Florida governor who is shaping up to be Trump’s chief rival heading into primary season is, surely, chortling with glee at how Trump’s you-must-elect-me-again campaign is going. Not saying anything is probably pretty smart politics. After all, why would DeSantis choose to get involved in this particular scandal when Trump, in dining with Neo-Nazis, is doing such an admirable job of self-sabotage all on his own?