A CNN appearance by a former member of Donald Trump's administration grew testy on Monday morning after host Don Lemon grilled him for his weak defense of the former president dining with notorious anti-Semite Nick Fuentes, with the CNN host stunned since his guest is Jewish himself.
Speaking with the host, former Deputy Secretary of State Len Khodorkovsky was immediately back on his heels when Lemon bluntly started the interview with: "So why? Why would he do it?"
"You're asking me to get into his thinking. But what I can do is, I can give you my perspective, which is unique, I think," the former Trump official attempted. "You mentioned that I worked for the Trump administration, I did, and I'm proud of our record on many issues, including issues related to the Jewish community and the Jewish state of Israel."
After explaining that he is "also a refugee from the Soviet Union and a grandson of Holocaust survivors," he added, "I can tell an anti-Semite when I hear one and I tell you with confidence that President Trump is not an anti-Semite. He also has a strong record on issues that concern the Jewish community."
"I understand that, but can we talk about Nick Fuentes, please, thank you," Lemon replied. "Do you think it would be wrong for the former president to be -- do you think it was wrong for the former president to meet with Nick Fuentes?"
"From what I understand, President Trump said he didn't know Nick Fuentes was coming, and Nick Fuentes himself, from what I understand, said President Trump had no idea who he was at the dinner," he parried. "So I -- look, let's just call Nick Fuentes for who he is: he's an anti-Semite, he's repulsive, his views are disgusting, and no one of any substance should give him any forum, it's frankly beneath President Trump to meet with him."
"You're saying it was wrong for him to meet with him?" Lemon pressed.
"Again, he didn't know he was coming, but it's never a good idea to give anti-Semites a forum," Khodorkovsky explained.
When the former Trump official attempted to launch a counterattack on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for "anti-Semitism in the halls of Congress," the CNN host pulled him up short.
"They're not president of the United States," he lectured. "Sir, they're not the president of the United States. He's the former president of the United States. This is not what-aboutism. He met with an anti-Semite, so can we stick to the former president and not do what-aboutism? We can talk about those other people when there are issues, but there aren't issues right now."
"Don't you think the former president, considering what is happening, the investigation at Mar-a-Lago, the documents, the types of people who might have access to classified documents, beyond the anti-Semitism, you don't think the former president should know who he's meeting with and letting into his home?" Lemon demanded.
"I will give you that, yes, of course, he should know who he's meeting with -- he did meet with Kanye," Khodororkvsky shot back.
"It sounds like you're making excuses for him," Lemon interrupted. "You say he should know who he's meeting and then you said he didn't know. it sounds like you're making excuses. There's no excuses for bad behavior, anti-Semitism and being the former president and not knowing who you're allowing into a place where you kept classified documents."
"I would appreciate it if you didn't put words in my mouth," the former Trump official protested. He later argued, after further grilling from Lemon, "I didn't realize I was on the witness stand here, Don. Look, I'm trying to have a substantive conversation about a real issue like anti-Semitism and you're trying to make it all about Trump."
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