Former President Donald Trump distanced himself from a pre-Thanksgiving dinner Friday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes, claiming he could not reveal the identities of the distant knew. right-wing activist who was unexpectedly brought along with the rapper.
“Last week Kanye West called me to come over for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Shortly thereafter, he showed up unexpectedly with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about,” Trump said in a statement Friday on his Truth Social platform.
“On Tuesday evening we had dinner with many members present on the back terrace. Dinner was quick and quiet,” Trump said. “They then left for the airport.”
On Saturday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates denounced the meeting. “Bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism have absolutely no place in America — not even in Mar-A-Lago,” he wrote. “Holocaust denial is abhorrent and dangerous and must be strongly condemned.”
The president, when asked for his response by reporters, responded, “You don’t want to hear what I think.”
A person familiar with the dinner conversation not involved in Trump’s presidential campaign, and two Trump advisers who knew about the dinner, confirmed Trump’s claim that he did not know Fuentes’ identity when they dined together . The three sources spoke on condition of anonymity given the nature of the controversy.
But despite Trump suggesting the event was “unmoved,” the fallout from his dinner with Fuentes appears to have sent Trump’s campaign into damage reduction mode. The former president took hours to respond publicly after multiple media outlets reported that Fuentes was present at the dinner.
Even the two Trump advisers shuddered at how a Holocaust denier as Fuentes was able to end up with Trump over dinner — even if it was by accident — along with the rapper, who just restored his Twitter account but lost major endorsement deals for making anti-Semitic comments.
“This is a goddamn nightmare,” said a longtime Trump adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arousing the former president’s wrath against “unfaithful” people who criticize him. “When people watch [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis to run against Trump, here’s another reason why.”
All three sources familiar with the dinner told NBC News that there was one glaring inaccuracy in Trump’s statement: Trump knew one of the three “friends” brought by the rapper, Karen Giorno. She was the Trump campaign director in Florida in 2016 and the former president knows her by name and face, the sources said. In addition to Giorno and Fuentes, Ye brought another man who was a partner, according to the sources.
The source familiar with the dinner conversation said the dinner got heated after Ye — who announced a new candidacy for president in 2024 on Thursday — asked Trump to be his running mate. Trump then began insulting Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, according to the source and a video that Ye posted on Twitter on Thanksgiving Day recounting dinner.
The source also said that Fuentes is helping advise Ye in his second presidential campaign. The rapper has said the campaign would be led by Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right provocateur and former Breitbart editor who was banned from Twitter in 2016 for inciting a racist campaign against comedian Leslie Jones.
Ye, Fuentes and Yiannopoulos declined to comment on the dinner.
Details about the dinner began to emerge on Twitter on Wednesday when a reporter from Politico tweeted that Ye and Fuentes had been seen in Mar-a-Lago. The conservative website Timcast confirmed Fuentes’ presence at the dinner, followed by Axios.
The porous nature of Mar-a-Lago, where anyone with connections could run into Trump, has long worried his advisers. It also helped put Trump in the crosshairs of a federal investigation after the FBI executed a search warrant at the club in August looking for documents marked classified that the federal government says Trump should not have owned .
Trump’s statement on Truth Social did not denounce anti-Semitism or racism, but his campaign in a follow-up message pointed to Trump’s support for Israel, the Middle East peace deal with Abraham Accords that reached his administration, and his opposition to anti-Semitism in Iran.
But so does Trump embraced antisemitic tropes and numbers, implying that American Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel, saying that there is “very nice people on both sidesat the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Fuentes attended that event, and after Trump said he denounced white supremacy at the rally, Fuentes denounced him for that.
In his video debriefing, Ye said that “Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes. Nick Fuentes – unlike so many lawyers and so many people he was left with during his 2020 campaign – he is actually a loyalist [for Trump].”
The source, independent of Trump’s campaign, said Trump planned to dine privately with Ye at Mar-a-Lago’s library, but then told them to eat outside on the public patio. The former president also invited the others.
The topic of racism and anti-Semitism was not raised, and Fuentes “presented himself as a statistician. He was very knowledgeable about polls and Trump’s campaign. Trump was very impressed, but Trump didn’t know who he was,” the source said.
Trump asked Fuentes about his 2024 announcement speech the week before and Fuentes criticized Trump for being too “teleprompter” and low on energy. said the source. Fuentes and West, the source added, also said Trump should have issued a blanket pardon to anyone involved in the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, which Ye’s video debriefing also stated.
Trump also mentioned his adviser, Jason Miller, to Fuentes, who criticized the veteran operative for now running the social media site Gettr, which Fuentes has banned, according to a copy of a group sms exchange that Ye posted on Twitter on Thursday.
However, Trump’s Truth Social platform does verified Fuentes as a notable user.
At one point, the conversation got tense and Trump started making his critical remarks about Ye’s ex, Kardashian. “That is the mother of my children,” Ye protested, according to his video debriefing.
Trump then became animated when Ye challenged him. “You’re not going to win. You can’t beat me,” Trump told Ye, the source said. “Nick, you work for that guy, and just because you work for him, are you going to tell him he can beat me? You just finished telling me I was the best president ever.
Ye said in his video debriefing that Trump was angry.
“When Trump basically started yelling at me at the table telling me I was going to lose, I mean has that ever worked for anyone in history?” said the rapper. “I’m like wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, Trump. You talk to Ye.