Donald Trump's 2-hour dinner meeting with white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago has put a new focus on the GOP embrace of extremism ahead of the January vote that will determine the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California does not have enough votes to become the speaker due to vetos from far-right legislators led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
McCarthy is running against the backdrop of Trump dining with Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who said Trump was "really impressed" with Fuentes.
"I like this guy, he gets me," Trump reportedly said.
The meeting was described as a "f*cking disaster" for Trump by one longtime advisor, but is also casting a shadow over the campaign for Speaker of the House.
Longtime conservative leader Bill Kristol asked, "aren’t there five decent Republicans in the House who will announce they won’t vote for anyone for Speaker who doesn’t denounce their party’s current leader, Donald Trump, for consorting with the repulsive neo-Nazi Fuentes?"
While McCarthy has not condemned Trump for meeting with Fuentes on Tuesday, he took a different tack in February.
"Reps. Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene are on an island among their fellow GOP lawmakers after appearing with a white nationalist group over the weekend," Politico reported at the time. "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a host of other Republican leaders are condemning party members who engage with white nationalist groups, days after Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Greene (R-Ga.) spoke at the extremist-backed America First Political Action Conference. It’s the most serious signs of isolation yet for the two Trump-allied conservatives, as party leaders criticize their actions and decline to defend them."
At the time, McCarthy told CNN, "to me it was appalling and wrong."
"There’s no place in our party for any of this," McCarthy said in February. “This is unacceptable."
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) wondered if the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) would get involved in the campaign for Speaker of the House.
"Has the ADL asked [McCarthy] to reject any votes for Speaker from known anti-Semites who support Nick Fuentes?" Perriello asked. "Have any journalists asked if he will allow anti-Semites to be his 'majority makers'?"
The ADL website says, "Nicholas Fuentes is a white supremacist leader and organizer and podcaster who seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP. Nicholas Fuentes first gained widespread notoriety in 2017 when he left Boston University after he reported receiving 'threats' tied to his attendance at the white supremacist 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia."
"In 2017, Fuentes began hosting his livestream show America First with Nicholas J. Fuentes, which attracted a cult-like following," ADL explained. "Fuentes refers to these supporters as 'Groypers' or the 'Groyper Army,' who see their bigoted views as necessary to preserve white, European-American identity and culture. They believe that the mainstream conservative movement is just as responsible as liberals and the left for destroying white America, and that Groypers are the true future of the conservative movement."