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Ire Over Trump, White Nationalist      11/27 09:14

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Former President Donald Trump is renewing attention to his 
long history of turning a blind eye to bigotry after dining with a 
Holocaust-denying white nationalist and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West 
just days into his third campaign for the White House.

   Trump had dinner Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, who is now known 
as Ye, as well as Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist who has used his online 
platform to spew antisemitic and white nationalist rhetoric.

   Ye, who says he, too, is running for president in 2024, has made his own 
series of antisemitic comments in recent weeks, leading to his suspension from 
social media platforms, his talent agency dropping him and companies like 
Adidas cutting ties with him. The sportswear manufacturer has also launched an 
investigation into his conduct.

   In a statement from the White House, spokesman Andrew Bates said: "Bigotry, 
hate, and antisemitism have absolutely no place in America -- including at 
Mar-A-Lago. Holocaust denial is repugnant and dangerous, and it must be 
forcefully condemned."

   Trump, in a series of statements Friday, said he had "never met and knew 
nothing about" Fuentes before he arrived with Ye at his club. But Trump also 
did not acknowledge Fuentes' long history of racist and antisemitic remarks, 
nor did he denounce either man's defamatory statements.

   Trump wrote of Ye on his social media platform that "we got along great, he 
expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said 
about me on 'Tucker Carlson.'" He added, "Why wouldn't I agree to meet?"

   The former president has a long history of failing to unequivocally condemn 
hate speech. During his 2016 campaign, Trump waffled when asked to denounce the 
KKK after he was endorsed by the group's former leader, saying in a televised 
interview that he didn't "know anything about David Duke." In 2017, in the 
aftermath of the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, 
Virginia, Trump was widely criticized for saying there was "blame on both 
sides" for the violence. And his rallies frequently feature inflammatory 
rhetoric from figures like U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who spoke 
earlier this year at a far-right conference organized by Fuentes.

   The latest episode, coming just one week after Trump launched his third run 
for the Republican nomination, also underscored how loosely controlled access 
to the former president remained, particularly without a traditional campaign 
operation in place.

   Trump's Mar-a-Lago club came under intense scrutiny amid revelations that 
Trump was storing hundreds of documents with classified markings there -- 
sparking a federal investigation. But the club -- and the people it gave access 
to Trump -- had long been a source of consternation among former White House 
aides.

   Mar-a-Lago is not only Trump's home, but also a private club and event 
space. Paid members and their guests dine alongside him and often mingle with 
him; members of the public can book weddings, fundraisers and other events, and 
Trump often drops by.

   Ye first shared details of the dinner in a video he posted to his Twitter 
account Thursday. Ye said he had traveled to Florida to ask Trump to be his 
2024 running mate, and that the meeting had grown heated, with Trump 
"perturbed" by his request and Ye angered by Trump's criticism of his estranged 
wife, Kim Kardashian.

   "When Trump started basically screaming at me at the table telling me I was 
gonna lose. I mean, has that ever worked for anyone in history, telling Ye that 
I'm going to lose?" Ye asked in the video. "You're talking to Ye!"

   Ye also said Trump was "really impressed with Nick Fuentes," whom he 
described as "actually a loyalist" and said he'd asked Trump, "Why when you had 
the chance did you not free the January 6th-ers?" referring to the defendants 
who were alleged to have participated in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. 
Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

   Trump released a series of statements Friday trying to explain the 
circumstances of the meeting.

   "Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was 
intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never 
met and knew nothing about," Trump said in his first statement released by his 
campaign.

   Not long after, Trump took to his social media network to say that Ye and 
"three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about" had "unexpectedly showed up" 
at his club.

   "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," he 
wrote.

   Hours later he again posted, saying he had told Ye that he "should 
definitely not run for President," and that "any voters you may have should 
vote for TRUMP."

   "Anyway, we got along great, he expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated 
all of the nice things he said about me on 'Tucker Carlson.'" he added. "Why 
wouldn't I agree to meet? Also, I didn't know Nick Fuentes."

   Fuentes, meanwhile, said after the trip that, while he couldn't rule out 
that Trump had heard of him, "I don't think he knew that I was me at the 
dinner."

   "I didn't mean for my statements and my whole background to sort of become a 
public relations problem for the president," he added on his show.

   The meeting drew immediate criticism from Trump critics as well as some 
supporters, including David Friedman, who served as Trump's ambassador to 
Israel.

   "To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit 
from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is 
unacceptable," Friedman wrote in a tweet. "I urge you to throw those bums out, 
disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong."

   On Saturday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential 2024 rival, 
also denounced antisemitism, without directly referencing the dinner or the 
president under whom he served.

   "Anti-Semitism is a cancer," Pompeo wrote, adding: "We stand with the Jewish 
people in the fight against the world's oldest bigotry."

   Biden, asked about the Trump dinner meeting while vacationing in Nantucket, 
Massachusetts, replied, "You don't want to hear what I think."

 
 
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