Donald Trump this week praised his dinner guest Nick Fuentes, one of the nation’s most prominent young right-wing extremists, according to a report in The New York Times on Friday.
The former president reportedly announced he liked Fuentes after hearing him describe himself as a member of Trump’s rank and file who loved when Trump went wild during speeches. (A source told Axios that Trump said he “really” likes Fuentes.)
“He understands me,” Trump said of Fuentes, the Times and Axios reported.
Trump advisers reportedly urged him to stick to speeches as written; he sometimes sparked chaos by improvising during his tenure as president.
Axios’ anonymous source commented that he didn’t believe “the president knew who the hell [Fuentes] was.” Trump made a similar statement after news of the meeting broke.
Fuentes had shown up alongside Ye — the rapper formerly known as Kanye West — to meet Trump at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida on Tuesday. Sources confirmed the meeting to outlets like Axios and Politico.
Ye’s career has bounced from crisis to crisis after a series of anti-Semitic tirades recently got him kicked off Twitter and ditched major corporate partnerships.
“Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, was asking me for advice regarding some of his difficulties, particularly in relation to his business,” Trump wrote Friday on Truth Social, the platform he founded after being banned from Twitter in early 2021.
“Anyway, we got on very well, he expressed no anti-Semitism and I appreciated all the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson [Tonight].’ Why wouldn’t I agree to meet you? Trump wrote, referring to the Fox News program.
He added: “Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”
Fuentes, a white supremacist, has sparked outrage after popping up alongside other prominent Republicans in the past, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who have both sought later to distance himself from Fuentes.
Trump also said on Truth Social that he discouraged Ye from announcing a presidential election in 2024 while the two were meeting. Trump’s 2024 campaign is less than two weeks old.
Ye, however, announced his candidacy Thursday on Twitter with a video in which he partially described the dinner, saying that Trump had said something derogatory about Kim Kardashian, Ye’s ex-wife.
The rapper’s Twitter account had been reinstated earlier this month under new CEO Elon Musk. It is also on the platform that Ye job a screenshot of a text thread allegedly between himself, right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos, Fuentes and another individual whose name has been garbled.
Fuentes came to public attention during the Trump years as the founder of an extremist youth group called America First that espoused hateful views particularly hostile to people of color, women and Jews. He repeatedly said segregation was better for black Americans and downplayed the Holocaust by examination how many people were killed, comparing them to baked cookies.
Fuentes also participated in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Immediately after the event, which left a woman dead, Fuentes called it “incredible”, writing on Facebook that “the rootless transnational elite know that a tidal wave of identity white is coming”.
Dozens of Republicans berated Trump for hosting Fuentes after the dinner news leaked. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie even questioned Trump’s suggestion that he was unaware of Fuentes’ background.
“He can’t stand not having attention all the time,” Christie told The New York Times, speaking of Trump. “And so the fact that someone shows up at his club – even if you think he didn’t know who Nick Fuentes was – and wants to sit with him, feeds the hunger he feels for the attention he has been missing since he left the presidency.”