NEW YORK — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Monday said Donald Trump “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment” and called on him to apologize after the former president had dinner last week with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West days after launching his third campaign for the White House.
“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 airing Monday night.
Still, Pence, who is considering his own potential run against his former boss, said he does not believe Trump is antisemitic or racist and said he would not have served as Trump’s vice president if he was.
“But I think the President demonstrated profoundly poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table and as I said, I think he should apologize for it,” he added. “He should denounce them without qualification.”
Trump had dinner last Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, who is now known as Ye, as well Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist with a long history of antisemitic and white nationalist commentary. Fuentes is described as a white supremacist by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Justice Department. His comments have included calling Jews a “hostile tribal elite” and saying Israel was the “anti-Christ.” He’s also questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Trump has said that he had “never met and knew nothing about” Fuentes, who had accompanied Ye, before the meeting. But he has so far refused to acknowledge or denounce the positions of ether Fuentes or Ye, who has made his own series of antisemitic comments in recent weeks, leading to his (temporary) suspension from social media platforms and the end of his ties with major companies like Adidas.
Former VP Mike Pence says Donald Trump should apologize for dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist, but said he doesn’t believe the former president is antisemitic. Watch the full interview on NewsNation tonight at 7p/6C. Find us on TV: https://t.co/TkQWhMl5oB pic.twitter.com/KEFBO8qa0j
— NewsNation (@NewsNation) November 28, 2022
The meeting has been criticized by Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America, which honored Trump just two days before his campaign launch, Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another potential Trump 2024 rival, who has become an outspoken Trump critic.
“This is 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,” Christie told The New York Times.
On Saturday, Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another potential 2024 rival, denounced antisemitism as “a cancer,” without directly referencing the dinner or the president under whom he served.
But other top Republicans, including many considering challenging Trump for the GOP nomination, have so far remained silent, underscoring the hold Trump maintains over the party, even as he has been blamed for their worse-than-expected showing during the midterm elections.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.