Senate Republicans across the ideological spectrum slammed former President Trump for having dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken white supremacist and antisemite, who broke bread with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate before Thanksgiving.
Republican senators regularly try to duck questions about Trump’s conduct or give measured responses to avoid provoking the former president’s wrath, which he is quick to dole out on social media or in press releases.
But there was little holding back on Monday when senators were asked about Trump’s controversial meeting with Fuentes, who has become a prominent white supremacist and antisemitic commentator since attending the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
“That’s just a bad idea on every level,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. “I don’t know who’s advising him on his staff, but I hope that whoever that person was got fired.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a Trump ally who gave the former president a “Champion of Freedom” award at Mar-a-Lago last year, declared, “There’s no room for antisemitism or white supremacy in the Republican Party. Period.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted twice to convict Trump on impeachment charges, let loose on Trump.
“There’s no bottom to the degree which he’s willing to degrade himself and the country, for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” he told reporters.
Asked if he wanted Trump to remain under the GOP’s tent, Romney replied, “I don’t think he should be president of the United States. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024.”
“And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle,” he added.
Asked if it was a lapse in judgment, Romney said, “It’s a character issue.”
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a prominent Republican moderate, said Trump should have never met with Fuentes.
“I condemn white supremacy and antisemitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes,” she said.
Trump claimed in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, that Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, asked to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago and “unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about.”
Ye, however, said that Trump was “really impressed” with Fuentes.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), a member of the GOP leadership team, said he had “never heard” of Fuentes, but after a reporter mentioned Fuentes was a white supremacist, the Texas senator said it was “bad.”
“No question about it,” he said.
Retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman, told reporters, “I wouldn’t want to have dinner with either one of those guys, or I wouldn’t meet with either one of those guys.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also called for a staff shake-up in response to Trump’s dinner with Fuentes and Ye, who himself has made a slew of antisemitic statements in recent weeks.
“If the reports are true and the president didn’t know who he was, whoever let him in the room should be fired,” Tillis said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment Monday about Trump’s meeting with Fuentes but said he would have more to say at the Tuesday leadership press conference.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a reporter for CNN that he hoped Trump would condemn Fuentes.
“I hope he will because I know [Trump] is not an antisemite. I can tell you that for a fact that Trump is not, but this guy [Fuentes] is evil,” he said. “And that guy is a nasty, disgusting person.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.) was one of the first Senate Republicans out of the gate criticizing Trump earlier in the day.
“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Cassidy tweeted.
Some Republicans, however, waved aside the controversy.
“I could care less who they have dinner with,” said retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial. “Do I look like somebody that cared?”