Republican says Trump ‘empowering’ extremists by having dinner with white supremacist

<span>Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP</span>
Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP

The Republican governor of Arkansas on Sunday joined a chorus of criticism of Donald Trump for having dinner with American white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, accusing the former US president of effectively “empowering” such extremists.

“It’s very troubling and it should not happen,” Asa Hutchinson told CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning, becoming the most senior Republican politician to condemn the meeting.

Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas since 2015, has previously said he is “very seriously” considering a run for president in 2024, competing with Trump, who announced his candidacy in the wake of the midterm elections.

He added that: “I hope someday we won’t have to be responding to what former president Trump has said or done.”

Then Hutchinson addressed the latest controversial meeting at Mar-a-Lago.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that’s setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite … we need to avoid empowering the extremes … you want to diminish their strength not empower them, stay away from them,” Hutchinson said.

After details emerged of Fuentes being hosted by the former president, Trump admitted he met him, but has not condemned his stances.

Fuentes is open about his extreme racist and antisemitic views on his podcast and on the visit to Trump accompanied Kanye West, the rapper now known as Ye, who has been under fire for antisemitic comments.

Trump said he did not know Fuentes was going to be present at the dinner and had no idea who he was.

One person present, however, said Trump was impressed by Fuentes. “He was impressed with Nick and his knowledge of Trump World. Nick knew people and figures and speeches and rallies and what surrounded the Trump culture, particularly when it came to the base,” Karen Giorno, a former Trump aide and senior adviser, told the Washington Post.

The meeting has been harshly criticized by human rights groups and the former New Jersey governor and one-time close Trump ally Chris Christie, but Hutchinson turned up the heat on Sunday.

“This was not an accidental meeting,” Hutchinson said of Fuentes sitting down with Trump. “It was a set up dinner with Kanye. Every occasion that the question of white supremacy or neo-Naziism or denying the Holocaust comes up you have got to be absolutely clear in your communication that this is not acceptable … and you have to disavow it.”

In addition, congressman James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky, said Trump needed “better judgment [on] who he dines with”.

“I would not take a meeting with that person,” Comer told NBC’s Meet the Press, of Fuentes.