Former president Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Trump and Fuentes spoke over dinner at his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate.
Trump has rejected the advice from his advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base.
The former president was urged both publicly and privately to denounce Fuentes in the aftermath of the dinner, which included the performer and rapper Kanye West, who has also recently been propagating antisemitic remarks.
But Trump eschewed making outright disavowals of Fuentes.
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 criticize Fuentes. Those close to him say that it is a product of Trump’s dislike of confrontation and his anxiety that it might antagonize a devoted part of his base.
According to multiple statements of those alongside Trump, the former president only became more entrenched in his obstinance the more he was urged to denounce Fuentes.
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 Kanye West “expressed no antisemitism” and “I didn’t know Nick Fuentes”.
Saying he did not know Fuentes was the closest that Trump came to acknowledging the offensive nature of the dinner. It came after Trump’s advisers warned him that being associated with a racist and a Holocaust denier would further damage his personal brand, as well as his recently launched 2024 presidential campaign.
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 in extremism.