Former Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that Donald Trump was “wrong” to recently dine with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West at his Florida resort and that the former president should apologize for it.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize for that. And he should unreservedly denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric,” Pence told NewsNation in a clip released Monday night.
Trump “showed very poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe Trump is “a racist or a bigot.”
Trump faced quick backlash from members of his own party after hosting Fuentes and West at his Mar-a-Lago estate last Tuesday. The rally came a week after the former president announced he would seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Pence, who is also seen as a potential 2024 Republican nominee, has spoken largely positively of Trump’s policies and his time in administration, but he has broken with the former president over his handling of the 6-6 attack on the US. January 2021. Capitol. He told CNN at a town hall in November that Trump’s words and tweet on January 6 were “reckless” and that he believes there will be “better choices” than Trump by 2024.
Pence’s comments join a chorus of intense criticism aimed at Trump in recent days.
Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson called Sunday’s meeting with the two figures “deeply disturbing” and “empowering” for extremism.
“No, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader who is an example to the country or party to meet (an) outspoken racist or anti-Semite. And so it’s very disturbing and it shouldn’t be happening and we should avoid amplifying such extremes,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “You want to diminish their power, not amplify it. Stay away from it.”
Hutchinson, who has a limited term and will leave office in January, is currently considering a bid for the White House in 2024.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, responding to news of the meeting, told CNN on Monday that Fuentes “is a purveyor and a distributor of an evil, poison,” adding of West: “I don’t know him, but the man is having some trouble.”
When asked if Trump should convict Fuentes, Rubio said, “I hope he will. Because I know he’s not an anti-Semite. I can tell you that Trump is indeed not, but this man (Fuentes) is evil. And that guy is just an annoying, disgusting person. He’s a donkey clown.”
GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, meanwhile, vehemently condemned Trump’s hosting of the group.
“You know, I find it disgusting to invite such people to meet with a former president of the United States. I think it’s clear that there is no bottom to the extent to which President Trump will demean himself and the nation,” Romney said.
When asked if Trump should apologize, Romney said, “He doesn’t. He never sees anything wrong with anything he does, so this is typical of his approach, either saying it was a joke or saying he didn’t know what was going on. But of course that doesn’t fly. This is something that frankly relegates him to doing what he’s been doing. And it’s something that also makes the country smaller. It is very unfortunate.”
CNN previously reported that Trump was engaged to Fuentes and found him “very interesting” over dinner, according to a source familiar with Fuentes, particularly Fuentes’ ability to rattle off statistics and data, and his familiarity with Trump’s world. At one point during dinner, Trump stated that he “liked” Fuentes.
The Anti-Defamation League has identified Fuentes as a white supremacist and he has been banned from most major social media platforms for his white nationalist rhetoric. Fuentes was present on the grounds of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and has promoted Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. West became entangled in his own controversy after repeating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and making other offensive claims last month.
Trump acknowledged the dinner in a post on Truth Social on Friday, writing, “Last week Kanye West called me for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Soon after, he showed up unexpectedly with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back terrace. Dinner was fast and boring. Then they left for the airport.”
Trump later reiterated Friday that he “didn’t know” Fuentes and had given West both business and political advice.