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Semafor LogoBenjy Sarlin and Kadia Goba
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‘Immoral,’ ‘Disgusting,’ ‘Ass Clown’: Republicans rage against Trump’s antisemitic dinner party

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Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters

Donald Trump faced a deluge of criticism from across the Republican party spectrum on Monday over his dinner party with noted antisemites Ye and Nick Fuentes, starting with his own former vice president and followed by a raft of senators.

“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,” Mike Pence said in an interview with NewsNation. “And he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”

In Washington, lawmakers returning from a holiday recess condemned Fuentes, Ye, and Trump’s decision to host them, with varying degrees of severity.

“There is no bottom to the degree to which he is willing to degrade himself and the country for that matter,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah said. “Having dinner with those people was disgusting.”

“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.”

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Cassidy had voted to convict Trump in an impeachment trial, and Romney had voted to do so twice, but it wasn’t just his usual critics speaking out this time.

“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.”

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“That should be something everybody should clearly say, there's no room for any racism in anything,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who is currently weighing a run for governor, said. “It's easy for me to say.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. called Fuentes an “ass clown” and told CNN he hoped Trump would condemn the “evil” and “disgusting” figure. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas told NBC News he was a “racist clown.”

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.

Meanwhile, condemnations continued to pour in from Jewish supporters of the president. Elan Carr, who Trump appointed to a State Department post devoted to combating antisemitism, tweeted: “No responsible American, and certainly no former President, should be cavorting with the likes of Nick Fuentes and Kanye West.”

Title iconBenjy and Kadia's View

Trump’s dinner party seemed to be going the way of prior Trump scandals over the holiday weekend — a lot of noise in the press, a handful of attention-getting condemnations from Republicans, but mostly silence within his party. On Monday, it became clear this wasn’t going to be another story that gets quietly swept under the rug.

Overall, it was the most widespread Republican rebuke Trump has received since January 6th. And it came just two weeks after the former president launched his reelection campaign, and three weeks after a disappointing midterm that many Republicans blamed on Trump-backed candidates who voters perceived as extreme. Trump has made it through worse, and rank-and-file votes are the ultimate judge of his place in the party. But he also can’t afford to bleed support when Republicans have other options in a competitive primary.

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