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Trump scrambles to defend Mar-a-Lago dinner with notorious bigots

The problem is not just Trump's willingness to dine with notorious bigots. It's also Republicans' willingness to remain silent about it.


About a month into his presidency, Donald Trump sat with then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dining at Mar-a-Lago at an outdoor table. The leaders learned of a North Korean ballistic missile test during their meal, and common sense suggested that Trump and Abe would retire to a private room to discuss the security situation, consult with intelligence officials, and prepare possible responses.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the two huddled around electronic devices, surrounded by aides, as waiters walked around them and Mar-a-Lago customers snapped photographs.

This has long struck me as the most ridiculous dinner Trump has ever hosted at his glorified country club. At least, that’s what I thought until learning about a very different kind of Mar-a-Lago gathering last week. The New York Times reported:

Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night had dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and racist who is one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists, at Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, advisers to Mr. Trump conceded on Friday. Also at the dinner was the performer Kanye West, who has also been denounced for making antisemitic statements. Mr. West traveled to meet with Mr. Trump at the club, Mar-a-Lago, and brought Mr. Fuentes along, the advisers said.

It was late Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, when reporters for Politico and The Daily Beast first reported on Fuentes and West appearing at Mar-a-Lago. The day after Thanksgiving, the former president confirmed the gathering by way of his social media platform.

“This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” the Republican wrote on Friday afternoon. “Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport.”

Trump did not acknowledge West’s record of virulent antisemitism or the fact the entertainer brought along one of the nation’s most notorious bigots. Indeed, the former president’s version of events was itself bizarre: Trump agreed to have dinner with a known antisemite, who brought along another known antisemite, who had no trouble gaining direct access to Trump at the venue where apparently guests go completely unvetted before reaching the 2024 candidate’s table.

I kept looking for a postscript that read, “I knew I was having dinner with one bigot; I had no idea there’d be two bigots.”

This is, of course, the same venue where the Republican thought it’d be a good idea to store highly sensitive national security secrets.

What’s more, it didn’t go unnoticed that Trump could’ve taken the opportunity to denounce West and/or Fuentes in the statement, but he didn’t.

As this generated more chatter, Trump apparently thought it’d be wise to issue another missive, so he published a second item hours after the first, explaining that he and West “got along great” at their dinner; the entertainer “expressed no anti-Semitism” during their meal, and the former president “appreciated” West’s kind words about him on Fox News.

The statement added, “Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”

None of this helped. Trump still didn’t explain why he dined with one of the nation’s highest profile antisemites. He also didn’t take the opportunity to denounce West, Fuentes, or their disgusting hatred.

Complicating matters, Axios spoke to a source familiar with the dinner conversation and reported that “Trump ‘seemed very taken’ with Fuentes, impressed that the 24-year-old was able to rattle off statistics and recall speeches dating back to his 2016 campaign.”

This led the Republican to publish a third statement, in which Trump described West as “troubled,” mentioned for no apparent reason the fact that the entertainer “just happens to be black,” and concluded by condemning “Fake News.”

For those keeping score, there were three statements from the 2024 contender, not one of which denounced West’s or Fuentes’ record of hate. Given Trump’s own record of antisemitic rhetoric, it created an indefensible set of circumstances: A former American president shared a friendly meal with two of the nation’s most notorious bigots, one of whom has, among other things, called for “a homeland” for white people and engaged in Holocaust denialism.

“This is a f---ing nightmare,” one longtime Trump adviser told NBC News.

It’s a nightmare, however, that GOP officials and candidates seem eager to downplay. A small handful of Republicans offered mild criticisms in the wake of last week’s Mar-a-Lago dinner, but in general, the former president’s party was prepared, once again, to ignore the latest outrage.

Trump has left no doubts as to his character. The more the Republican Party looks away and remains silent, the more obvious its culpability.