Pence says Trump should apologize for associating with Holocaust denier | CBC News
A growing number of Republicans, including former vice-president Mike Pence, criticized Donald Trump on Monday for dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist days after launching his third campaign for the White House.
Pence, in an interview, called on Trump to apologize and said the former president had “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment” when he met on Nov. 23 at his Mar-a-Lago club with Kanye West, who is now known as Ye, as well as Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist with a long history of espousing antisemitic and white nationalist views through is online platforms.
The episode is serving as an early test of whether party leaders will continue to rally behind Trump as he embarks on yet another campaign for the White House after they have spent much of the last eight years being asked to respond to the controversies he’s created.
While Pence went on record with his disappointment, others including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remained silent.
The meeting had already been criticized by prominent Jewish organizations as well as Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Trump denies knowledge
Ye said in a video post that Trump was “really impressed with Nick Fuentes.”
Trump has said he didn’t know who Fuentes was before the meeting. But he has so far refused to acknowledge or denounce the positions of either Fuentes or Ye, who has made his own series of antisemitic comments in recent weeks, leading to his suspension from social media platforms and the end of his ties with major companies like Adidas.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and Holocaust denier, a seat at the table and I think he should apologize for it. And he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification,” Pence said in an interview with NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that aired Monday night.
Trump himself has occasionally come in for criticism from Jewish American groups.
While president in 2019 he said American Jews who vote for Democrats demonstrated “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Just last month, he said Jewish Americans needed to “get their act together” and “appreciate” Israel more in a series of social media posts.
Those recent comments drew a rebuke from Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the American Defamation League.
“We don’t need the former president, who curries favour with extremists and antisemites, to lecture us about the U.S.-Israel relationship.… This ‘Jewsplaining’ is insulting and disgusting,” Greenblatt said on social media.
Trump made Israel a focus of his foreign policy — he ordered the U.S. Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and his administration helped broker pacts normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
But he has often overestimated how much policy concerning Israel animates Jewish Americans.
A Pew Research Center poll in 2019 found that nearly as many Jewish Americans said Trump was favouring the Israelis too much (42 per cent) as those who said he was striking the right balance (47 per cent). Jewish Americans were more likely than evangelical Christians to say Trump favoured the Israelis too much, 42 per cent to 26 per cent.
Some forceful condemnations, others less so
Pence’s decision to criticize Trump’s actions — but still defend the man himself — underscores the former president’s continued hold on the Republican party, even as he finds himself at a moment of intense vulnerability. Many of the party’s top fundraisers and strategists blame him for their worse-than-expected showing in this year’s midterm elections and increasingly say they believe it is time to move on.
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At the same time, Trump remains deeply popular with the Republican base, and even candidates hoping to challenge him for the Republican presidential nomination risk alienating those voters if they criticize him too strongly.
“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,” tweeted Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
“There’s no room for antisemitism or white supremacy in the Republican Party. Period,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott.
Others were more equivocal.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina blamed Trump’s staff for allowing Fuentes to join the dinner, even though no staff had attended.
“If he wasn’t familiar with him, then whoever had responsibility for knowing the backgrounds of the people in the room, I hope they are already fired,” Tillis told reporters at the Capitol on Monday evening.
When asked if Trump should apologize, he said: “I’ll leave that to President Trump.”
“Yeah, the meeting was bad. He shouldn’t have done it,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump ally. But, Graham went on, “there’s a double standard about this kind of stuff and I don’t think it will matter in terms of his political future.”
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, one of the first establishment names to back Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, told The New York Times that the dinner was “just another example of an awful lack of judgment from Donald Trump, which, combined with his past poor judgments, make him an untenable general election candidate for the Republican Party in 2024.”
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