WASHINGTON — White nationalist Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, who met with former President Donald Trump last Tuesday at his Mar-a-Largo estate (brought there by the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, under fire for his own antisemitic statements), was raised in suburban Chicago.
Trump, who launched a re-election bid a week before the Nov. 22 dinner, would go on to claim in statements that he did not know who Fuentes was. He never expressed, as the week progressed, any regrets about the meeting.
The practical impact is that by dining with them, Trump handed West and Fuentes a gift: an elevated platform the extremists — both with deep Chicago ties — otherwise would not have.
West and Fuentes are from the Chicago area, with West living in South Shore and the southern suburbs as a youth.
Although West’s roots in Chicago and his journey to extremism have made headlines, the Mar-a-Largo dinner with Trump is throwing a spotlight on Fuentes, who has become a far-right extremist leader.
Fuentes, 24, is a 2016 graduate of Lyons Township High School, living in La Grange Park when he attended the school. He was interested in politics in high school — active in Model United Nations programs and hosting his own talk show on the student television station, according to school records.
The path eventually led Fuentes, by then a college student, to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he attended the white nationalist alt-right Unite the Right rally in 2017, with marchers chanting antisemitic slogans.
Fuentes went on to found, in 2020, the America First Political Action Conference — a group he has positioned to the right of the conservative right, especially the Conservative Political Action Conference.
He is a critic of the more establishment Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization founded in 2012 by Charlie Kirk, a Wheeling High School graduate whose own path to politics also started when he was in high school.
“Fuentes is among the most prominent and unapologetic antisemites around,” David Goldenberg, the Anti-Defamation League director of the Midwest regional office, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday.
“He’s a vicious bigot. He’s been condemned across the political spectrum. … He’s a white supremacist who really is seeking to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP,” Goldenberg said.
Records show Fuentes with a Berwyn address, though that does not mean he is living there. The ADL said in a report that on March 8, 2022, “Fuentes announced his plan to move from Chicago to Florida in the coming months.”
Some of Fuentes’ followers are part of the “Groyper” movement, defined by the ADL as a “loose network of alt-right figures who are vocal supporters of white supremacist and ‘America First’ podcaster” Fuentes. A Pennsylvania woman, connected to the “Groyper” movement, was found guilty this month of storming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, where rioters were trying to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Earlier this year, the House Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Fuentes, who, the committee said, was “present on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6” and active in “Stop the Steal” rallies leading up to the attack.
The ADL said in an analysis of Fuentes that he “seeks to carve out a space that deliberately and publicly challenges the mainstream conservative movement while doubling down on themes central to the white supremacist movement. Fuentes and his America First adherents vocally support the closure of the U.S. borders to immigrants, while opposing ‘liberal’ values such as feminism and LGBTQ+ rights. Fuentes views these societal changes as the ‘bastardized Jewish subversion of the American creed.’”
The family of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is Jewish.
West on Thursday posted a video on Twitter — by Sunday evening it had 5.3 million views — where he talks about the meeting with Trump and how Trump was “really impressed” with Fuentes. West, who said he was considering running for president in 2024, said he asked Trump to be his vice president.
Top Republican leaders have been, on the whole, quiet about Trump’s meeting with West and Fuentes.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” GOP Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told anchor Dana Bash on Sunday, “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.
“And so it’s very troubling, and it shouldn’t happen. And we need to avoid those kinds of empowering the extremes. And when you meet with people, you empower. And that’s what you have to avoid. You want to diminish their strength, not empower them. Stay away from them.”
The two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack and Trump’s role in it — Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney — blasted Trump over the meeting. “Trump hangs with the David Duke of weak soft boys of today, Nick Fuentes,” Kinzinger said on Twitter. Posting above a video featuring Fuentes and GOP Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, speaking at an AFPAC event, Cheney wrote, “@RepMTG and now, @realDonaldTrump hanging around with this anti-Semitic, pro-Putin, white supremacist. This isn’t complicated. It’s indefensible.”
David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, was explicit in his Twitter post, telling Trump, “You are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable. I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”