Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — each rumored to be eyeing a presidential run — were quicker to criticize Trump.
Last Tuesday, Trump hosted a dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West and and Nicholas Fuentes. West has been spouting virulent antisemitism recently, and Fuentes is a white supremacist, holocaust denier, and Hitler admirer. Trump was reportedly quite taken with Fuentes, and during the dinner said, “I like this guy. He gets me.” Public outrage built over the holiday weekend. At first Republicans were hesitant to criticize Trump for this, but yesterday some of them actually spoke out against his behavior.
The Washington Post: Pence, other Republicans issue rare rebuke of Trump over dinner with Fuentes and Ye.
Former vice president Mike Pence and numerous Republican lawmakers on Monday criticized Donald Trump for dining with the white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, both of whom have a history of antisemitic remarks, marking a rare break with Trump in the upper echelons of the GOP.
Pence was most clear in his condemnation, saying in an interview with NewsNation, “President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table. I think he should apologize for it, and he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
He joined several Republican senators who also directly criticized the former president in statements disavowing the dinner with Fuentes and Ye. Pence’s comments were also one of the clearest instances of the former vice president trying to set himself apart from Trump, whom he served for four years, amid the expectation that Pence will challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
Christie tweeted on Saturday: “This is just awful, unacceptable conduct from anyone, but most particularly from a former President and current candidate.”
“Well, I hope, someday, we won’t have to be responding to what former President Trump has said or done,” Hutchinson said in an interview Sunday on CNN. “In this instance, it’s important to respond. … I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite.” [….]
“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Trump should have “certainly” known who he is dining with, telling reporters Monday, “I totally think it’s ridiculous to be sitting down with somebody who espouses such views.” [….]
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement that she condemns “antisemitism and white supremacy” and that “the president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”
The public critiques of Trump were notable after years in which many Republicans remained silent as he courted extremists. Still, many stopped short of a full denouncement.
Mitt Romney delivered the harshest rebuke. From Charlie Sykes’ Morning Shots at The Bulwark:
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said.
“I voted to remove him from office twice… I don’t think he should be president of the United states. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
More Republican condemnations from Semafor:
“It was ridiculous,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa said.
“I just think that was a really bad idea,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, the second-ranking Republican leader, said. “He shouldn’t have done it.”
While some lawmakers were reluctant to single out Trump by name, and many paired their statements with attacks on Democrats and reassurances they didn’t consider Trump racist, they almost all made clear he’d crossed a line. Importantly, they did what Trump would not — condemn and disavow the hate his dinner guests preached.
“There’s no room in the Republican Party for white supremacy and antisemitism,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., a close Trump ally, said. “It’s wrong. I think Republicans should all condemn white supremacy and antisemitism.” [….]
And even some top supporters were, at minimum, willing to concede it wasn’t the best look. “There’s a lot of other people, I would think that he could have met with to help the country be stronger and go more in the right direction,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. said.
And what about Jewish Trump supporters? Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: Jewish Allies Call Trump’s Dinner With Antisemites a Breaking Point.
For much of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, Jewish Republicans rationalized away the bigoted fringe of Mr. Trump’s coalition, arguing that the unsavory supporters in his midst and the antisemitic tropes he deployed paled in comparison with the staunchly pro-Israel policies of his administration.
But last week, Mr. Trump dined at his Palm Beach palace, Mar-a-Lago, with the performer Kanye West, who had already been denounced for making antisemitic statements, and with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and Holocaust denier, granting the antisemitic fringe a place of honor at his table. Now, even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters say they can no longer ignore the abetting of bigotry by the nominal leader of the Republican Party.
“I am a child of survivors. I have become very frightened for my people,” Morton Klein, head of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, said on Monday, referring to his parents’ survival of the Holocaust. “Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews. But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”
Not all Republican leaders have spoken out, but Jewish Republicans are slowly peeling away from a former president who, for years, insisted he had no ties to the bigoted far right, but refused to repudiate it. Jewish figures and organizations that have stood by Mr. Trump, from Mr. Klein’s group to the pro-Trump commentator Ben Shapiro to Mr. Trump’s own former ambassador to Israel and onetime bankruptcy lawyer, David M. Friedman, have all spoken out since the dinner.
For Jews, the concern extends far beyond a single meal at Mar-a-Lago, though that dinner has become a touchstone, especially for Jewish Republicans.
“We have a long history in this country of separating the moral character of the man in the White House from his conduct in office, but with Trump, it’s gone beyond any of the reasonably acceptable and justifiable norms,” Jay Lefkowitz, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and a supporter of many of Mr. Trump’s policies, said on Monday.
For American Jewry, the debate since the dinner has brought into focus what may be the most discomfiting moment in U.S. history in a half-century or more.
“The normalization of antisemitism is here,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.
From New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg: Antisemitism’s March Into the Mainstream.
Jews are thriving in America, and even with the violent resurgence of antisemitism in the Trump era, I’ve rarely felt personally threatened, perhaps a function of my privilege. Over the last week, though, I’m reminded that well-off Jews in other times and places have also imagined that they’d moved beyond existential danger, and been wrong.
At this point, there is no excuse for being shocked by anything that Donald Trump does, yet I confess to being astonished that the former president dined last week with one of the country’s most influential white supremacists, a smirking little fascist named Nick Fuentes. There’s nothing new about antisemites in Trump’s circle, but they usually try to maintain some plausible deniability, ranting about globalists and George Soros rather than the Jews. Fuentes, by contrast, is overt. “Jews have too much power in our society,” he recently wrote on his Telegram channel. “Christians should have all the power, everyone else very little.”
Fuentes was brought to Trump’s lair by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was evidently serious when he threatened to go “death con 3” on the Jews last month. (The relationship with West is a bit of a coup for Fuentes, who, openly wishing for conflict between Jews and Black people, has been willing to sublimate his anti-Black racism in the service of his antisemitism.) According to Axios, at one point during the dinner Trump turned to Ye and said of Fuentes: “I really like this guy. He gets me.”
Since then, Trump has claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was. I find this unlikely. In September, I wrote a piece about a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate named Joe Kent that mentions Fuentes in the first paragraph. Trump scrawled a note of congratulations on the print version and mailed it to Kent, who sent the image out on his email list. But even if Trump’s ignorance was sincere, he still didn’t denounce Fuentes after learning his identity.
Most Republicans, in turn, spent days declining to criticize Trump, though former Vice President Mike Pence and several senators finally spoke out on Monday. There is a good argument that politicians and journalists should avoid responding to every one of the ex-president’s provocations. In this case, however, the reluctance to rebuke Trump erodes the already-shaky taboo against antisemitism in Republican politics.
Goldberg goes on to note that “other narcissistic celebrities are now joining him in reveling in reactionary transgression.”
Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, “We’re done putting Jewish interests first.” After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. On Sunday, he tweeted that Alexander Vindman, the Jewish retired Army officer who testified about Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president, is both “puppet & puppeteer,” echoing an old antisemitic trope about Jews pulling the strings behind world events. On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.
And now Musk owns Twitter, which has become a kind of public square that is important to people, causes, and even government agencies around the world. I knew nothing about Musk until recently, when he began making noises about buying Twitter. Now it’s clear to me that he is a full-blown malignant narcissist, very similar to Trump. He appears to be on a path to turning Twitter into an unmoderated hell scape like 4chan and 8chan, where Qanon and other crazy conspiracy theories festered. Recently Musk announced that he will reinstate all of the account that were previously banned by Twitter moderators. According to NPR,
In the days after the Capitol insurrection, Twitter banned 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts for spreading the conspiracy theory. Some belonged to influencers with large followings, including high-profile Trump supporters Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, who had also spread false claims of election fraud and had tried to get the election results overturned.
Many more accounts have been banned since then. Even more concerning, despite his claims that protecting children is important to him, Musk’s layoffs and firings have made Twitter more dangerous for children.
REMOVING CHILD EXPLOITATION is “priority #1”, Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk declared last week. But, at the same time, following widespread layoffs and resignations, just one staff member remains on a key team dedicated to removing child sexual abuse content from the site, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who both requested to remain anonymous.
It’s unclear how many people were on the team before Musk’s takeover. On LinkedIn, WIRED identified four Singapore-based employees who specialize in child safety who said publicly they left Twitter in November.
The importance of in-house child safety experts cannot be understated, researchers say. Based in Twitter’s Asian headquarters in Singapore, the team enforces the company’s ban on child sex abuse material (CSAM) in the Asia Pacific region. Right now, that team has just one full-time employee. The Asia Pacific region is home to around 4.3 billion people, about 60 percent of the world’s population.
The team in Singapore is responsible for some of the platform’s busiest markets, including Japan. Twitter has 59 million users in Japan, second only to the number of users in the United States, according to data aggregator Statista. Yet the Singapore office has also been impacted by widespread layoffs and resignations following Musk’s takeover of the business. In the past month, Twitter laid off half its workforce and then emailed remaining staff asking them to choose between committing to work “long hours at high intensity” or accepting a severance package of three months’ pay.
The impact of layoffs and resignations on Twitter’s ability to tackle CSAM is “very worrying,” says Carolina Christofoletti, a CSAM researcher at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “It’s delusional to think that there will be no impact on the platform if people who were working on child safety inside of Twitter can be laid off or allowed to resign,” she says. Twitter did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The Twitter in-house child safety team is vitally important to outside organizations who work to protect vulnerable children, because the metadata and analysis are only available inside Twitter.
Whether you love or hate Twitter, that is frightening. We’ve spent the past 7 years dealing with one narcissistic psychopath who could still run for president again. Now there’s another one in charge of the most important platform for communication with journalists, government leaders, historians, researchers, and more. Why do we do this to ourselves? That’s a topic for another day.
What do you think? What stories are you following today?