Former Vice President Mike Pence says former President Donald Trump should apologize for dining with Nick Fuentes, a White nationalist known for antisemitic rants who went to Mar-a-Lago with rapper Kanye West.
“President Trump was wrong to give a White nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier, a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize for it,” Mr. Pence told NewsNation on Monday.
Mr. Trump hosted Mr. West, also known as Ye, at his Florida home with Mr. Fuentes. Mr. Trump has downplayed the incident and tried to distance himself from Mr. Fuentes, while Mr. West has been dropped by major design labels for his own antisemitic remarks.
Mr. Pence said Mr. Trump, who recently announced a 2024 presidential bid, should decry “hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
He also said antisemitism remains “a very real issue in the world today,” but he does not think Mr. Trump holds those views.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite; I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot,” Mr. Pence told NewsNation. “I would not have been his vice president if he was.”
Mr. Pence is part of a loud chorus of GOP voices condemning Mr. Trump for the Fuentes dinner.
“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, tweeted.
Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican and co-chairman of the Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values, told reporters he is “appalled” by the incident, according to Fox News.
Departing Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, also said Mr. Trump’s excuses weren’t good enough.
“You could have accidental meetings. Things like that happened. This was not an accidental meeting,” Mr. Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Former Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, said Mr. Trump’s chapter with the GOP is finished.
“For Donald Trump to defend himself by saying Kanye West is a ‘friend’ only makes his action more shameful,” he tweeted.
Mr. Pence has tried to avoid direct criticism of his former boss since leaving office after a serious clash on Jan. 6, 2021. Mr. Trump said his vice president didn’t have the courage to send 2020 electoral votes back to the states for another look even as pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol with Mr. Pence inside and some chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Mr. Pence has focused on policy achievements with Mr. Trump while looking to the “future” instead of the past, though he’s been more critical of Mr. Trump of late.
During a recent CNN town hall, Mr. Pence said was angered by Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to the Capitol attack and for not condemning the rioters as they stormed the building.
“The president’s words and tweet that day were reckless,” he said. “They endangered my family and all the people at the Capitol.”