Kanye West’s visit to Mar-a-Lago last week with white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes, followed by his announcement that he’s running for president, might look like a desperate publicity stunt from a rapper whose antisemitic statements have resulted in sponsorship losses and diminished influence.
And on some level, it is.
But experts who monitor extremism warn that the quixotic bid for the presidency by the rapper who now goes by the name Ye also represents a deliberate effort to push Trump further to the right, and specifically towards endorsing antisemitic conspiracy theories that underpin white supremacy and fascism.
The Telegram account for Gab.com, a social media platform that is a haven for white supremacists, pushed the idea of a Ye candidacy as a radicalizing agent last week.
“The goal now is to shift the Overton Window further right, like 2016 Trump did,” the message reads. “That won’t happen with 2022 Trump, but it could continue to happen with Ye. We need to shift all of our memetic energy for the ’24 primaries to Ye if he announces a run.”
Gab is owned by Andrew Torba, who worked as a consultant for election denier Doug Mastriano’s failed campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. The message has since been taken down, but was archived by Kristofer Goldsmith, the CEO of Task Force Butler, a 501c3 nonprofit that trains veterans to fight fascism.
In another message on Telegram on Nov. 26, the Gab.com account accused Trump of pandering to “Jewish powers” while falsely claiming that Jews “hate Jesus Christ, hate our country, and see us all as disposable cattle.” The message concluded by warning: “Trump will start putting Jesus Christ first in His campaign messaging or he WILL be left in the dust of someone who does.”
The Gab.com message was in turn forwarded by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor and alt-right provocateur who is advising the Ye campaign.
Fuentes, a Holocaust denier who attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally, appears to have been recruited to join the Ye campaign by Yiannopoulos. In a social media post on Nov. 25, Yiannopoulos cited Ye, Fuentes and Karen Giorno, a political strategist who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, while crediting himself on “what a powerful and deadly alliance I have assembled.”
In a video titled “Mar-a-Lago debrief,” Ye told Yiannopoulos that “Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes,” describing him as a “loyalist” and contrasting him with “lawyers” who advised Trump to accept the outcome of the 2020 election. Ye went on to criticize Trump for not doing more to help the hundreds of supporters charged in the attack on the US Capitol, saying, “My question would be, ‘Why, when you had the chance, did you not free the January 6ers?’”
On Nov. 25, three days after dining with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Fuentes announced on Telegram that he was temporarily suspending his Cozy.TV livestream “to go work in the real world to put America First!” During the final episode that night, Yiannopoulos appeared in the super chat, telling Fuentes: “My last super chat ever… because the next cash I send will be your paycheck. God bless you, Nicholas… and see you at the office on Monday.”
Ben Lorber, a senior researcher at Political Research Associates, said that Fuentes’ involvement with the Ye campaign is consistent with the objectives of Fuentes and his Groypers movement.
“Fuentes was very disappointed and underwhelmed by Trump’s 2024 announcement,” Lorber told Raw Story. “Basically, Fuentes’ longstanding goal is to move the conservative movement further rightward. For his entire career, that’s what he’s been about, from the early days of the Groyper wars. From his viewpoint, the MAGA movement should be going more explicitly white nationalist, more explicitly anti-LGBTQ and more explicitly antisemitic.
“Fuentes and other far-righters have always worried that Trump was going to be coopted by the conservative establishment,” Lorber continued. “Fuentes sees Kanye’s campaign as a way to push Trump further rightward, or Ron DeSantis, or whoever emerges as the Republican frontrunner.”
Fuentes confirmed that motive in a message on Telegram over the weekend.
“When I say that Trump vs. DeSantis is the wrong ‘dialectic,’ I mean that they are both inferior to the campaign that Trump ran in 2016,” Fuentes said. “DeSantis is a moderate and he would moderate Trump: lose-lose.
“We need Trump and a NEW candidate who will outflank him on his Right,” he added.
Like the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a sizable white supremacist faction that was at one time led by a man who is Afro-Cuban, the Fuentes-Ye-Yiannopoulos alliance is a far-right formation with a multiracial face. That strategy has worked to their advantage.
“Nick Fuentes and the Groyper movement — they’ve always pushed more nationalist politics,” Lorber said. “Their central message is that white people are being replaced by non-white immigrants, and that white people should organize and fight back. They’re very clearly a white nationalist movement, but they’ve welcomed a significant number of non-white people as influencers — conservative commentators like Jon Miller and rappers like Bryson Gray. It furthers their movement and helps them deflect charges of racism.
“They use antisemitism as a bridge,” he added. “Kanye’s far from the first non-white influencer to adopt a position that white people are under attack. The match makes sense, even if it’s confusing.”
Fuentes has genuinely admired Ye for at least four years, and came to see him as a “MAGA avatar” when he first tweeted that he supported Trump, Lorber said. His admiration deepened when Ye showcased a “white lives matter” T-shirt at Paris fashion week in early October. Lorber said Groypers greeted a series of antisemitic statements by Ye, including threatening to go “death con 3 on Jewish People,” with “jubilation.”
Ye and Fuentes’ visit to Mar-a-Lago appears to have already succeeded in creating a rightward gravitational pull on Trump, even as some of his Republican allies have condemned the gathering. Trump has reportedly rejected advice from advisers to disavow Fuentes.
“This follows a familiar pattern for Trump to claim ignorance, then refuse to disavow,” Lorber said. “With David Duke, he claimed to not know David Duke, but he refused to disavow him. After Charlottesville, he said there were ‘very fine people’ on both sides. We have not seen Trump disavow Fuentes. He said, ‘I don’t know who Nick Fuentes is.’ Trump doesn’t want to alienate the hardcore MAGA base.”
Even some of Trump’s far-right supporters do not believe Trump’s claim that he didn’t know Fuentes when West brought him and Giorno to Mar-a-Lago.
“Karen Giorno was literally his senior adviser and can confirm from my days at the WH he knows who Nick Fuentes is, so he’s just not being honest,” Jon Miller, the Groyper-friendly former YouTube host, wrote on Telegram on Nov. 25.
To differing degrees, West, Fuentes and Yiannopoulos are all on the downswing, and choosing each other as provocative allies serves their interests by keeping their names in the headlines. While West has lost sponsorships from Adidas and Balenciaga over his antisemitic statements, Lorber noted that after enjoying the spotlight at AFPAC III in February, Fuentes has seen key allies desert him, his viewership numbers drop, and former ally Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) disavow him.
Yiannopoulos was way out in front in falling from grace. A former protégé of Steve Bannon who served as a senior editor at Breitbart, Yiannopoulos soared to prominence at the vanguard of the alt-right during the 2014 GamerGate controversy. But his book deal was canceled in early 2017 after comments came to light that appeared to be sympathetic to pedophilia. At the time, Yiannopoulos’ open homosexuality provided some cover to him as a Trump ally who used his platform to make outrageous statements attacking women, immigrants and trans people. Since then, Yiannopoulos has attempted to reinvent himself by renouncing homosexuality and embracing Christianity, while interning for far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
Lorber said Fuentes and Yiannopoulos are executing a clearly defined strategy by attaching themselves to West.
“I think they’re hopeful that Kanye will serve as a new iteration of the alt-right,” he said. “What we’ve heard Nick and others say is that Kanye’s platform can be a way for them to inject irreverent energy, quote-unquote ‘meme magic’ and open antisemitism into the political discourse. Just as the alt-right was primarily an online intervention to move Trump further to the right and inject new ideas into the discourse, they hope Kanye’s campaign can do the same.”