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If Biden Did It? Hypocrite GOP lawmakers hushed on Trump’s dinner with white nationalist

November 28, 2022

AXIOS

Republican lawmakers have largely remained silent in the wake of former President Trump’s dinner with antisemitic rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, reviving a tactic they frequently relied on during his presidency.

Driving the news: Spokespeople for nearly two dozen House and Senate Republicans — including party leaders, co-chairs of caucuses and task forces focused on Judaism or antisemitism and sponsors of legislation to combat antisemitic hate crimes — did not respond to requests for comment.

Why it matters: The dynamic highlights the stranglehold Trump still has on the Republican Party outside a small group of vocal critics, even in the aftermath of poor performances by his handpicked candidates in the midterm elections.

What’s happening: Democrats have challenged their Republican colleagues to condemn Trump’s dinner with Fuentes, an extremist who frequently promotes racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a statement to Axios: “Republicans who continue to remain silent become complicit in legitimizing bigotry and hate when the leader of their own party mainstreams fringe white nationalists and antisemites.”

Wasserman Schultz is a co-chair of the Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations, which condemned antisemitic comments by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, last month. Her fellow co-chair, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), did not respond to a request for comment.

“I don’t give a &$#! what some republicans are saying off the record about Trump dining with antisemites,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), “At this point anything less than a clean, public break is just taking us all for fools.”

The other side: Only a handful of Republican members of Congress have condemned the dinner. 

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called it “indefensible,” while Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted: “[H]as [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] condemned this yet? Or nah?” Both are vocal Trump critics leaving office in January.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), the GOP co-chair of the Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values, told Axios of the dinner: “I am appalled.”

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), likely the next chair of the House Oversight Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump “needs better judgment in who he dines with.”

The big picture: Some Republican groups and figures outside Congress have weighed in — though mostly in vague terms that bypass direct criticism of Trump. 

The Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement: “We strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them.”

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement: “As I had repeatedly said, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party.”

Several potential Republican candidates for president in 2024 also spoke out:

Trump administration Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called antisemitism a “cancer” in a tweet on Saturday but made no specific references to the dinner.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responded more directly, saying the meeting is “another example of an awful lack of judgment” and makes Trump an “untenable” candidate to retake the White House.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on CNN: “What Donald Trump did and his failure to condemn it is really the minority of the party. It’s the extreme side of it. That’s what you’ve got to distance yourself from, and he failed to do that.”

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