'Like hosting a meal with KKK leaders'

Rabbi who prayed at Trump inauguration ‘shocked’ by his dinner with ‘two bigots’

Marvin Hier, founder of Simon Wiesenthal Center, says ex-president must denounce Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, who joined him for meal last week at Florida resort

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, delivers a blessing at the inauguration of President Donald Trump, January 20, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, delivers a blessing at the inauguration of President Donald Trump, January 20, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)

A prominent US rabbi who delivered a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration in early 2017 called on the former president to denounce rapper Kanye West and white nationalist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, after the two joined Trump for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida last week.

The meeting last Tuesday has drawn a slew of criticism of the ex-president, including by former vice president Mike Pence Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America, which honored Trump just two days before his 2024 presidential campaign launch in mid-November.

In a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Los Angeles-based founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), said he was “shocked to the core” to learn that Trump “hosted two antisemites, Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, at his Mar-a-Lago resort last week.”

Hier wrote that he “couldn’t help but wonder, what would other former presidents like Washington and Lincoln and Truman and Reagan, or civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin, say about such a meeting? It would have been like them hosting for dinner leaders of the KKK.”

“I cannot believe that a man with Jewish grandchildren, who was the first president to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people by moving the US Embassy to the holy city, and who invited this native of New York’s Lower East Side to lead our nation in prayer at his inauguration, could make such an ill-conceived decision,” Hier wrote of Trump whose daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner. The couple is raising their three kids Jewish.

Hier said that even if Trump had not previously heard of Fuentes, as the former president has claimed, “surely he knew all about West, who has railed against and threatened Jews on social media again and again.”

Then-President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives for the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Friday, January 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

West has been embroiled in a scandal since last month over a number of antisemitic comments and threats on social media and in interviews, leading to his (temporary) suspension from platforms and the end of his ties with major companies like Adidas. Hier cited West’s recent comments which included: “I’m going death con 3 on the Jews,” “I don’t think that [the Jews] have the ability to make anything on their own. I think they were born into money” and “Jewish people own [the] Black voice… we’re not going to be owned by the Jewish media anymore.”

West also said “we need a government of Christians,” adding, “Jewish people can be here, but they can’t make our laws.”

Fuentes, meanwhile, is a raging antisemite and Holocaust-denier whose 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. Fuentes has been described as a white supremacist by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Justice Department and attended the racist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and the Stop the Steal rally on January 6 that led to an insurrection at the Capitol.

Nick Fuentes, far-right activist, holds a rally at the Lansing Capitol, in Lansing, Michigan, November 11, 2020. (Nicole Hester/ Ann Arbor News via AP)

Fuentes produces the “America First” podcast, which he has used to accumulate a large following known as the openly antisemitic and racist “Groyper Army.” His YouTube channel was permanently suspended in early 2020 for violating the platform’s hate speech policy.

Since the dinner last Tuesday, Trump has yet to acknowledge Fuentes’s long history of racist and antisemitic remarks, nor has he denounced either man’s defamatory statements.

Hier said he was “buoyed by the voices of some prominent Republicans who have joined Democrats in denouncing Trump’s meeting with West and Fuentes,” adding that “far more need to speak out.” He noted that “America’s political and civil discourses are broken” and that antisemitism has been on the rise in the US, citing recent comments by FBI director Christopher Wray who said that the Jewish community in the United States was “getting hit from all sides.”

Wray said that some 63 percent of religious hate crimes were motivated by antisemitism, “and that’s targeting a group that makes up about 2.4% of the American population.”

Hier said these numbers “don’t even reflect the latest tsunami of anti-Jewish hate dominating social media in the wake of Kanye “Ye” West’s [Louis] Farrakhan-esque pernicious anti-Jewish outbursts that followed.”

Kanye West watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, on March 11, 2022. (AP/Ashley Landis)

The rabbi suggested that the “swamp” of Nazism and antisemitism was now based in the US.

Hier said that SWC’s namesake, the late Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, loved the US and “never forgot that it was American GIs who saved him in May 1945.”

“He was mesmerized by the stars on the American flag, with each signifying not only a state but also America’s values of freedom and justice. When I asked him why he didn’t move to the US, Simon responded that if you wanted fight the scourge of Nazism and Jew-hatred, you had to carry the fight from the swamp. If Simon were alive today, he would have relocated here,” Hier wrote.

Addressing Trump at the end of the column, Hier said “our Jewish faith does not believe that anyone is perfect,” and “instead of deflecting, I urge you to clearly and unequivocally denounce the two bigots you hosted and everything they stand for.”

The former president has a long history of failing to clearly condemn hate speech. During his 2016 campaign, Trump waffled when asked to denounce the KKK after he was endorsed by the group’s former leader, saying in a televised interview that he did not “know anything about David Duke.”

In 2017, in the aftermath of the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump was widely criticized for saying there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. And his rallies frequently feature inflammatory rhetoric from figures like Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spoke earlier this year at a far-right conference organized by Fuentes.

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