Former President Donald Trump told Fox News on Tuesday he had "no idea" what white nationalist Nick Fuentes' views were before they dined together at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week.
Trump is under fire from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle after he hosted Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and Fuentes at his Palm Beach club. Fuentes is an outspoken far-right livestreamer and Holocaust denier who has been labeled a white supremacist by the Justice Department.
Though the former president said he extended an invitation to Ye, who he claimed "very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago," Trump said the rapper and designer brought Fuentes to dinner without him knowing. (Ye, too, has made multiple antisemitic comments on social media in recent months.)
"I had never heard of the man," Trump said of Fuentes in his interview with Fox News. "I had no idea what his views were, and they weren't expressed at the table in our very quick dinner, or it wouldn't have been accepted."
The former president added that Ye wanted to speak with him for "advice," saying he had heard the artist and supporter had "had difficulties, including financial difficulties." Ye was recently dropped by several businesses he had collaborated with, including Adidas, over his antisemitic remarks.
Revelations about the dinner have sparked bipartisan backlash in recent days. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that there was "simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy." Though he didn't specifically rule out Trump's recently announced bid for a return to the White House, McConnell said "anyone" who spends time with white nationalists is "highly unlikely to ever be elected president."
Trump was apparently livid at that suggestion. In his interview with Fox News, the former president said McConnell was a "loser for our nation" who would never have been reelected without his endorsement.
"Mitch is a loser for our nation and for the Republican Party who would not have been reelected in Kentucky without my endorsement, which he begged me for because he was going down," Trump claimed.
Other top Republicans have also criticized the dinner. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that he didn't think "anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes."
"He has no place in this Republican Party," McCarthy said.
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