WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some Republicans on Sunday criticized Donald Trump for dining with white supremacist Nick Fuentes at the former president’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, even as Trump said the encounter was inadvertent.
Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson accused Trump of empowering extremism.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader who’s setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or anti-Semite,” Hutchinson told CNN.
Representative James Comer, a Republican lawmaker from Kentucky, said Trump needed “better judgment (on) who he dines with.”
“I would not take a meeting with that person,” Comer told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Trump earlier this month said he plans to seek the Republican nomination to run for the White House again in 2024, though he could face challengers to that bid, including from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Fuentes has been described as a white supremacist by the U.S. Justice Department and he attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington that preceded the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. The Anti-Defamation League said Fuentes once “‘jokingly’ denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven.'”
Trump said the encounter with Fuentes happened during a dinner meeting last week with the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who himself has drawn widespread criticism for making anti-Semitic statements.
Trump in a message on his Truth Social media site said he met with Ye and “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,” Trump wrote.
The White House slammed Trump, saying in a statement that “bigotry, hate, and antisemitism have absolutely no place in America — including at Mar-A-Lago.”
President Joe Biden shrugged off a question from reporters about the incident, saying: “You don’t want to hear what I think.”
David Friedman, Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, said anti-Semites “deserve no quarter among American leaders, right or left.”
“To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable,” Friedman wrote on Twitter.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Nandita Bose and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Scott Malone and Mark Porter)