Who is Nick Fuentes? The white supremacist, friend of Kanye West and dinner guest Trump claims he never heard of
If Donald Trump had really never heard of the man with dark brown hair who showed at up his door for dinner, accompanied by none other than Kanye West, then he really should have.
The 24-year Nick Fuentes is a self-described white supremacist who spreads racist and antisemitic opinions on social media and in human interaction at events such as his America First Political Action Conference. He has denied the Holocaust, and was once apparently one of Trump’s biggest fans.
Reports suggest that at the now infamous Mar-a-Lago dinner, Fuentes paid high praise to the former president, or rather the former version of the former president - the off-the-cuff, say-it-as-it-is, rabble-rouser that jolted the nation back in 2016 and even 2020.
“You like it better when I just speak off the cuff,” Trump reportedly asked of Fuentes, to which he agreed. Trump told Fuentes his advisers had requested he make use of a teleprompter and to ad-lib less.
According to a report from Axios, at one point, Trump turned to West and said: “I really like this guy. He gets me.”
Trump would later say he did not know who Fuentes was, or that West, who has legally changed his name to Ye, was planning on bringing a guest. (West, who has said he is suffering from mental health issues, has made a series of racist and anitsemitic comments in the past months and this week was suspended from Twitter after posting a swastika.)
“This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said on Truth Social. “Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport.”
The revelation that Trump had hosted Fuentes, and West, sparked immediate outrage. Even Republicans often slow to criticise the former president, such as Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, were outspoken in their condemnation.
“There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” said McConnell, the Senate minority leader. “And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.”
By now, at least, Trump must surely know who Fuentes is, and the outsized influence he has among a chunk of far-right white supremacists, large numbers of whom have turned out to support Trump in both his efforts to become president and to hang on to power after having lost to Joe Biden.
Indeed, at a number of highly controversial moments during Trump’s term as president, Fuentes was present. â¨He campaigned for Trump in 2016, was among those who attended the so-called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that saw far-right and flaming torch-carrying neo-Nazi marchers clash with counter-protesters. Two police officers covering the rally were killed when their helicopter crashed, and 34-year-old counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed when the crowd was rammed by a 20-year-old man, James Fields Jr, a self-confessed neo-Nazi later convicted of murder.
After the rally and the attendant violence, Trump triggered one of the biggest controversies of his presidency to date when he sought to draw equivalence to both sides, saying: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
Fuentes - who has been banned by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, but occupies an influential place on lesser regulated parts of social media - was just 19 when he attended the Virginia rally.
In its aftermath, Fuentes announced he was dropping out of Boston University to pursue his right-wing activism, something he had cemented an hour after Heyer was fatally injured, when he posted on his still then accessible Facebook page: “A tidal wave of white identity is coming.”
He told the Associated Press he was hoping to transfer to Auburn University in Alabama.
“I’m ready to return to my base, return to my roots, to rally the troops and see what I can do down there,” he said.
Since then, Fuentes has continued to position himself on the fringes of the political right, denouncing mainstream Republicans and even Trump-loyalists such as Charlie Kirk, of the group Turning Point USA. Frequently his speeches and remarks are hard to understand for those not equipped with his group’s own language and references. His supporters are called “groypers”.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit group that tracks extremist movements within the US, had a public falling out in 2018 with James Allsup, another white nationalist with whom Fuentes hosted a podcast.
In February 2020, he hosted the first America First Political Action Conference, based on the better known Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where Michelle Malkin would be among the high profile speaker and which he would repeat a year later.
During 2020, Fuentes would attend several rallies to support Trump and his assertions that the election was set to be rigged. He took part in the so-called Maga Million March on 14 November 2020, and urged his supporters to take part in the Jan 6 rally in Washington DC where Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell”.
Fuentes himself was present that day, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a group that opposes antisemitism. While he did not enter the Capitol himself, people with America First logos did so.
“This is awesome...we have been beat up and betrayed and spit on and stepped on for decades. And to see the tables turned for once was a little bit refreshing,” he said, according to information presented to the Jan 6 Committee.
Fuentes was later subpoenaed to appear before the committee. He said he would refuse to testify unless it was broadcast live.
“I wish the testimony was televised,” he told his supporters. “If the testimony was televised, I will do it. If they televise my appearance, I absolutely will do it. If I get to go to Congress, and I get to sit there, and I get to talk about groypers, and I get to go off ... I absolutely will do it. If not … I might invoke the Fifth.”
Despite his notoriety, several members of the Republican Party have associated themselves with him. Among them are Arizona congressman Paul Gosar, who twice spoke at event hosted by Fuentes in Feb 2021 and Feb 2022, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who attended the AF event in Orlando, Florida.
Video showed Fuentes and attendees cheering for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as approving of comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler. Fuentes also called the attack on the US Capitol “awesome”. Greene said she was “tragically heartbroken” to be a member of this Congress and that “everything this Congress does—is evil”.
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She later claimed she did not know the full extent of Fuentes’ views.
“It doesn't matter if I'm speaking to Democrat union members or 1,200 young conservatives who feel cast aside and marginalized by society,” she said in a statement. “The Pharisees in the Republican Party may attack me for being willing to break barriers and speak to a lost generation of young people who are desperate for love and leadership.”
Recently, Greene was among those claiming Trump also did not know who Fuentes, and said he had no place in the Republican Party. “President Trump had no idea [Fuentes] was even coming. So that’s unfortunate,” she told reporters.
Fuentes, like Kanye West, was born in the Chicago area, lived in the La Grange Park neighbourhood and attended Lyons Township High School. The Chicago Sun-Timesreported was “interested in politics in high school — active in Model United Nations programmes and hosting his own talk show on the student television station”.
“Fuentes is among the most prominent and unapologetic antisemites around,” David Goldenberg, the ADL’s director of the Midwest regional office, told the newspaper. “He’s a vicious bigot. He’s been condemned across the political spectrum. … He’s a white supremacist who really is seeking to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP.”
The SPLC had a similarly sharp condemnation of Fuentes. “An outspoken admirer of fascists such as Mussolini, Fuentes emerged as an influential figure on the national stage during the now-infamous ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, which relied on misinformation to falsely claim that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election and sought to overturn the results of it,” the group wrote.
“Through his nightly ‘America First’ show and his America First Foundation, Fuentes has stated his aim is to remake the Republican Party into ‘a truly reactionary party”’”
Among his own remarks highlighted by the group was: “America, for what it’s worth, was founded by white Christians. It was not founded by Jewish people. It was not founded by Judeo-Christians. It was founded by white Christians. And white Christians are in the majority.”
Fuentes did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Independent.
In a livestream address to his supporters in which he acknowledged having dinner with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, he suggested that the former president did not fully appreciate who he was. He also apologised if the controversy had harmed Trump.
“I don't think he does know who I am, or rather, he didn't know that I was me,” he said. “I don't know if I'm going to say he didn't know me but I'm not sure about that. But certainly, he didn't know that I was me when I arrived at the dinner.”
He said he told Trump he had preferred him when he was more outspoken, and suggested that in a showdown between Ron DeSantis and the Trump of 2022, he would be backing the Florida governor.
“We have to move forward. We have to move forward in service of Christ in service of the truth and in service of America,” he claimed.
“I thought after 2016 We've been moving forward but it seems that it's 2020 and 2024, the messaging has been moving backwards.”â¨