Utah Sen. Mitt Romney called Donald Trump a “gargoyle” hanging over the Republican Party after the former president dined with rapper Kanye “Ye” West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago estate last week.
West has been embroiled in controversy recently after he made anti-semitic remarks on social media, prompting several high-profile sponsors, including Adidas, to cut ties with the rapper.
Fuentes, a leading figure in the far-right movement, attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the “Stop the Steal” protest in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. He has been labeled a white nationalist and a Holocaust denier by the Anti-Defamation League and has frequently praised segregation.
On Monday, according to NBC News’ Sahil Kapur, Romney blasted Trump for spending time with West and Fuentes, calling the meeting “disgusting.”
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney is quoted as saying.
Romney, who voted to remove Trump from office during both of his impeachment trials, ripped Trump’s decision to launch a 2024 campaign for the White House and suggested Trump should fade into the background.
“I voted to remove him from office twice. I don’t think he should be president of the United States. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle,” Romney said.
ABC congressional correspondent Rachel Scott reported that Romney also said Trump will characteristically dismiss accusations of wrongdoing by “either say it was a joke or say he didn’t know what was happening.”
“But that doesn’t fly. Obviously,” Romney added.
Most of the rest of Utah’s congressional delegation — with the exception of Rep. Blake Moore — did not respond to a request for comment about Trump’s meeting with West and Fuentes.
Moore said he was unaware of who Fuentes was before news of the meeting with Trump, but added the meeting should never have happened.
“I, of course, don’t support a former president meeting with Nick Fuentes. I didn’t even know who this guy was before this story broke. Nevertheless, I remain focused on things I can control,” Moore said in an email to The Tribune.
In the past, Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, Utah’s only Black congressperson, has been outspoken on race-related issues and his support for Israel. In October, he refused to participate in a pre-election debate, protesting the involvement of The Salt Lake Tribune over a political cartoon he deemed racist. In February, Owens joined dozens of members of Congress on a trip to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation. He also signed on to several pro-Israel initiatives in Congress, including a proposal to prohibit governmental organizations from joining boycotts against Israel.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee was an outspoken critic of Trump before Trump was elected to the White House, but quickly became one of his closest allies in Congress, going so far as to compare the former president to the Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni. Lee also played a role in Trump’s effort to reverse his 2020 election loss. Trump later endorsed Lee during the Utahn’s 2022 reelection bid.
Trump also endorsed Owens and Rep. Chris Stewart during the 2022 election. Stewart and Rep. John Curtis did not respond to a request for comment.
When asked about Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, through a spokesperson, said, “We should always reject antisemitism and racism.”
Utah Republican Party chairman Carson Jorgensen also did not respond when asked to comment on Trump’s meeting.
That silence is not uncommon. Only a few Republicans have stepped forward to criticize Trump after reports of the dinner with West and Fuentes surfaced. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the gathering was not “accidental” and should not have happened. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney called the meeting “indefensible.” GOP Sen Bill Cassidy of Louisiana tweeted Trump’s meeting with West and Fuentes “encourages other racist antisemites.”
On Monday, former Vice President Mike Pence said it was “wrong” for Trump to “give a white nationalist, and antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table,” and that Trump should apologize, but he does not believe Trump is an anti-Semite or racist.
Trump, who recently announced he would again run for president in 2024, reportedly refused to disavow Fuentes over fears it might alienate some members of his political base of supporters, according to The Guardian.