Former US Vice President Mike Pence says he believes Donald Trump is not “a racist or a bigot,” but he should denounce white supremacists and their hateful rhetoric.
Pence said on Monday night that Trump was “wrong” to recently have dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West at his Florida resort and that the former president should apologize for it.
“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. And he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification,” Pence said.
Trump “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table,” he said, adding that he does not believe that Trump is “a racist or a bigot.”
However, Trump said that the encounter was inadvertent. He blamed Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, for the dinner in which Trump said Ye brought along the white supremacist.
Trump said on Truth Social that Ye brought far-right activist Nick Fuentes to the dinner on last Tuesday and that he did not know who Fuentes was.
The meeting came a week after Trump announced he would seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Pence, who has also been viewed as a potential 2024 Republican candidate, has largely spoken favorably of Trump’s policies and his time in his administration.
But Pence has broken with Trump on his handling of the January 6, 2021 protest march at the US Capitol.
He told CNN in a November town hall that Trump’s words and tweet on January 6 “were reckless” and that he believes there will be “better choices” in 2024 than Trump.
Trump and his allies had raised concerns that widespread fraud marred the election and that it was rigged by the Washington establishment in favor of Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who was certified as the winner in Congress on January 6, 2021.
Pence was overseeing the certification proceedings as vice president. He was rushed to safety after some angry protesters called for his execution.
Since then, Trump's supporters have called Pence a “traitor” and targeted him for his role in the Electoral College certification.
In an interview with ABC last year, Trump openly supported the threats to Pence, who has said he was proud of his role in certifying the election results.
Asked about the January 6 crowd's chants of "Hang Mike Pence", Trump said they "were very angry" and he reiterated his claim of widespread voter fraud, Reuters reported.
Trump has maintained that he lost the election only because of widespread fraud that benefited Biden. Trump and his supporters denounce the January 6 panel as a political witch hunt.
Trump claimed that he won the 2020 presidential election and that there was "massive" voter fraud.