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Donald Trump was “wrong” and showed “profoundly poor judgement” for meeting last week at Mar-a-Lago with outspoken antisemites like rapper and fashion designer Kanye West and right-wing media figure Nick Fuentes, according to former vice-president Mike Pence.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite, and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table,” Mr Pence said in an interview on NewsNation on Monday.
“I think he should apologise for it, and I think he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
Mr Trump’s former No 2 defended the ex-president from accusations of antisemitism, pointing out how Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite,” Mr Pence said. “I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot. I would not have been his vice-president if he was.”
On 22 November, Mr West, Mr Fuentes and Mr Trump met at Mar-a-Lago.
Mr West has described it as a meeting regarding his potential 2024 presidential campaign, while Mr Trump said the musician and his right-wing political adviser came to Florida seeking business help.
“This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Mr Trump said in a statement, after the dinner meeting attracted controversy.
“Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. 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.”
In a second statement on Truth Social, Mr Trump said he and Mr West “got along great, he 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?”
Mr West said that at the meeting Mr Trump seemed “really impressed” with Mr Fuentes, though things became less cordial when the rapper asked Mr Trump to be his 2024 vice-presidential pick on the campaign trail.
“The thing that Trump was most perturbed about [is] me asking him to be my vice president,” Ye said in a video, titled “Mar-a-Lago debrief,” that he released after the meeting.
“I think that was, like, lower on the list of things that caught him off guard,” the rapper said.
Critics on the left and right have slammed Donald Trump’s decisions to meet with the two men.
“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,” the White House said in a statement following the dinner
David Friedman, the Trump administration ambassador to Israel, also criticised the move.
“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,” Mr 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.”
Former Trump administration Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a similar condemnation, saying in a tweet that “anti-Semitism is a cancer.”
Mr Trump has previously been accused of antisemitism for calling demonstrators at the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally “very fine people,” and for telling US Jews they need to “get their act together” and support him “before its too late” because of his record in Israel.