Donald Trump repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after they spoke over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort, rejecting the advice from advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.
The former US president was urged publicly and privately to denounce Fuentes in the aftermath of the dinner, which included the performer Ye, previously known as Kanye West, who has also recently been propagating antisemitic remarks.
But Trump eschewed making outright disavowals of Fuentes, the people said, and none of the statements from the campaign or on his Truth Social account included criticism of Fuentes, despite efforts from advisers who reached Trump over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Trump ultimately made clear that he fundamentally did not want to criticise Fuentes – a product of his dislike of confrontation and his anxiety that it might antagonise a devoted part of his base – and became more entrenched in his obstinance the more he was urged to do so.
Across three statements on Friday, Trump initially sought only to play down the dinner and made no mention of Fuentes or his views, before saying angrily in a post on his Truth Social website that evening that Ye “expressed no antisemitism” and “I didn’t know Nick Fuentes”.
The line about not knowing Fuentes was the closest Trump came to acknowledging the offensive nature of the dinner, under pressure from advisers who warned him that being associated with a racist and Holocaust denier could further damage his personal brand as well as his recently launched 2024 presidential campaign.
But even with his ignorance of Fuentes taken at face value, the statements signal Trump will give extraordinary deference to the most fringe elements of his base – even if it means potentially losing support from more moderate Republicans who have not typically cared for his indulgence of extremism. [Continue reading…]
After the news broke that Donald Trump dined with white-supremacist Nick Fuentes at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home, Trump rapidly disavowed any knowledge of Fuentes’s views. “I didn’t know Nick Fuentes,” Trump declared.
That’s not particularly credible. But either way, the focus on what Trump knew misses a more consequential part of the story: By breaking bread with Fuentes, Trump handed white supremacists and white-power activists a major propaganda coup. It will be read by them as another sign that they are successfully infiltrating the far-right flank of mainstream GOP politics. So will the silence from many Republican leaders since Trump’s dinner with Fuentes.
I contacted Kathleen Belew, the author of a history of white power movements in the United States, to talk about these undercurrents of the Fuentes story. Belew has an important new essay that digs into the underappreciated role of white power activism in helping drive the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
Belew’s argument — which appears in a forthcoming collection edited by historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer — is that the current rise in political violence can’t be disentangled from the country’s long history of violent white power activism. [Continue reading…]