Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday issued thinly veiled criticism of former President Donald Trump for a dinner the former president had last week with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has repeatedly espoused antisemitic views, and Nick Fuentes, who has been described by the Justice Department as a white supremacist.
“First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said during his weekly press conference.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican who is making a bid for speaker for the upcoming legislative session, denounced Fuentes but did not explicitly criticize Trump.
“I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes – he has no place in this Republican Party. I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him and didn’t know who he was,” McCarthy said.
When reminded that Trump had not explicitly condemned Fuentes, McCarthy replied, “Well, I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society. The president didn’t know who he was.”
Trump has maintained in a series of statements that he did not know who Fuentes was or that he was coming to a dinner Trump had arranged with Ye last week at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida club and residence.
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News of the dinner caused shockwaves through the political landscape just over a week after Trump announced a comeback bid for president in 2024, and they have shown little sign of abating.
Response from Republicans has so far been mixed, with some issuing full-throated condemnations of Trump’s dinner, others condemning antisemitism and the dinner guests more broadly without mentioning Trump, and still others remaining silent – evidence of the fact that many in the Republican Party are still carefully weighing the politics of how to speak publicly about Trump – who despite headwinds from the GOP after the midterm elections – remains in many ways the standard-bearer of the party.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is said to be weighing his own White House bid, said Trump should apologize for the meeting but that he did not believe Trump was himself racist or antisemitic.
“I think the president displayed profoundly poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table,” Pence said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also rumored to be considering entering the 2024 presidential contest, did not directly address the dinner or name Trump but tweeted shortly after the event, “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.”
– Kaia Hubbard and Susan Milligan contributed to this report.