Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who is considering challenging former President Trump for the White House in 2024, called Trump’s recent dinner with white nationalist Nick Fuentes “very troubling” on Sunday.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” with co-anchor Dana Bash, Hutchinson criticized the former president after he acknowledged dining with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that’s setting an example for the country or the party to meet with [an] avowed racist or antisemite,” Hutchinson told Bash.
“And so it’s very troubling, and it shouldn’t happen,” Hutchinson added. “And we need to avoid those kinds of empowering the extremes. And when you meet with people, you empower, and that’s what you have to avoid. You want to diminish their strength, not empower them. Stay away from them.”
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Trump has acknowledged the dinner in multiple statements on Truth Social, claiming he did not know Fuentes, who has expressed doubt about the Holocaust and was labeled a white supremacist by the Department of Justice.
The former president and Ye have publicly indicated the group discussed Ye’s aspirations to run for the presidency in 2024 during the dinner, and Trump said he told the rapper not to run.
Ye recently made a string of recent antisemitic comments, leading to immense controversy that has caused multiple brands, including Adidas, to drop their partnerships with the rapper.
Hutchinson, a frequent Trump critic, has acknowledged that he is considering running for the presidency in 2024, which would set up a direct challenge to the former president.
“I hope someday we won’t have to be responding to what former President Trump has said or done,” Hutchinson said on CNN. “The last time I met with a white supremacist, it was in an armed standoff, I had a bulletproof vest on. We arrested them, prosecuted him, sent him to prison.”
The Arkansas governor applauded other rumored 2024 GOP contenders who have criticized Trump in recent weeks, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“We need more of those voices, not fewer,” Hutchinson told Bash. “And I expect those voices to increase. And it shouldn’t be in a harsh tone, it should be in a voice of reality that this is exactly where we are as a party and where we need to go to reach out to those independents and expand the base of the party and move beyond the Trump era.”
— Updated at 10:23 a.m.