“I really like this guy. He gets me.”
That’s how former president Donald Trump reportedly described his recent dinner encounter with Nick Fuentes, a prominent White nationalist with an appalling history of promoting antisemitic and racist views.
“He was impressed with Nick and his knowledge of Trump World,” Karen Giorno, a former Trump political operative who also attended the dinner, told the Washington Post. “Nick knew people and figures and speeches and rallies and what surrounded the Trump culture, particularly when it came to the base.”
The dinner was initiated by musical artist Kanye West (who now goes by “Ye”). West has also generated controversy for his own antisemitic expressions, racially provocative statements, and embrace of conspiracy theories. An NBC News report suggested the event was a setup by Fuentes, West, and far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to push Trump back to his base.
As details of the meal emerged, public outrage followed. While some GOP members of Congress were slow to respond and too many others remain silent, the chorus of criticism is growing. A number of Republican senators expressed disapproval and multiple members of Trump’s own administration denounced the dinner.
Trump issued a flurry of social media statements that seemed to indicate he was aware of the public relations trouble. First, he tried to place the blame on West and denied knowing Fuentes: “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.”
Then Trump attempted to downplay the affair, claiming in another post, “The dinner was quick and uneventful.” In his third swing, Trump pivoted to justifying the meeting based on West’s flattery: “[West] expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’ Why wouldn’t I agree to meet? Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”
It was only on Tuesday (Nov. 29) — almost a week after news of the dinner broke — that Trump finally put a little distance between himself and the views of Fuentes.
“I had never heard of the man — I had no idea what his views were, and they weren’t expressed at the table in our very quick dinner, or it wouldn’t have been accepted,” the former president told Fox News.
Still, Trump appears to be both seeking absolution from the political establishment over a transgression he barely acknowledges and simultaneously wants to avoid alienating the far-right followers of Fuentes who could be key supporters in the 2024 presidential election.
As the former president privately noted when he faced pressure in 2016 to distance himself from the former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke, “A lot of these people vote.” (Publicly, however, Trump tried the same deflection about Duke he now uses about Fuentes, even though he had previously mentioned Duke in public comments: “I don’t know anything about David Duke.”)
One Trump advisor described the politics of the situation as “a f—ing nightmare.” While this moment presents a political test for Trump, it also reflects a brewing crisis for American Christianity. The grotesque antisemitic views West and Fuentes have expressed are not held in a vacuum. Both men link these appalling positions to their professions of Christian faith. The controversies they engender also seek to co-opt the meaning of Christianity in service to their despicable ends.
In this edition of A Public Witness, we highlight the ugly connection between the religious views and antisemitism of Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. Then we issue an explicit call for Christians to be vigilant in loudly rejecting the sinful perpetuation of antisemitism that seems a more common occurrence in our national politics.
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