Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday condemned former President Trump’s dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken white supremacist and antisemitic organizer.
McConnell usually avoids conflict with the former president, whom he last spoke to in December 2020, but on Tuesday he let loose with pointed criticism of Trump’s electability.
“There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, [is] highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” he told reporters at the start of his weekly press conference.
McConnell’s comments came a day after Senate Republicans across the political spectrum criticized Trump’s decision to host Fuentes and Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, at his dinner table at Mar-a-Lago shortly before Thanksgiving.
Ye has also provoked controversy for making numerous antisemitic statements and lost lucrative partnership with Adidas and other corporate brands because of them.
McConnell’s comments represented some of his most direct public criticism of Trump since excoriating him on the Senate floor at the end of his second impeachment trial for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Asked if he would support Trump if he wins the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, McConnell emphasized: “There is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices.”
McConnell’s remarks were more direct in taking on Trump than those of his House counterpart.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) earlier on Tuesday had condemned Fuentes but stopped short of going after the former president.
“I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes,” McCarthy said outside the White. “He has no place in this Republican Party.”
He added, “I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him and didn’t know who he was.”
McConnell and Trump have feuded since McConnell told Trump in a phone call on Dec. 15, 2020, that he had recognized Joe Biden as president after the Electoral College voted to elect him the day before.
The Senate Republican leader was “furious” at the time, according to associates, about Trump’s role inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
Though McConnell voted to acquit Trump on technical grounds for inciting the storming of the Capitol, he declared on the floor: “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”
Since then, McConnell has studiously avoided commenting on Trump’s controversial statements, legal problems or influence on the party.
But he did make clear after the Nov. 8 midterm election that he did not think Trump’s prominence in the national political spotlight was helpful to Senate Republican candidates, especially in the swing state of Pennsylvania where Trump held a rally with Senate GOP candidate Mehmet Oz a few days before he was defeated on Election Day.
“Here’s the problem, we underperformed among voters who did not like President Biden’s performance, among independents and among moderate Republicans, who looked at us and concluded [there was] too much chaos, too much negativity and we turned off a lot of these centrist voters,” McConnell told reporters after the election, though being careful not to mention Trump by name.
He said that trend was a problem in several battleground states and “fatal” in Pennsylvania.
“Dr. Oz was trying to run as a moderate, trying to appeal to those voters in Bucks and Chester County surrounding Philadelphia. That message got muddled at the end, which made it very difficult for him to achieve success,” he said, appearing to refer to Oz getting tied to Trump and the MAGA-affiliated gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the end of the race.
Trump announced a run for the White House a few days later.
But his electability appears to have taken a hit since Election Day, when Republican candidates, such as Arizona gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, who pushed Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 elections, lost key races.
A Morning Consult/Politico poll of registered voters across the country showed Trump leading a crowded field of Republican challengers if the GOP primary were held today. Trump garnered 45 percent support compared to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s 30 percent support.
A Club for Growth Action poll conducted from Nov. 11 to Nov. 23, however, showed DeSantis leading Trump by 11 percentage points and 15 points in Iowa and New Hampshire, which traditionally hold the first two contests of the presidential primary.
Updated at 5:29 p.m.