Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis said he would not personally have dinner with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, though stopped short of condemning other Republicans – like Donald Trump – that associated with him.
The Florida governor said that he was “proud” of steps taken in his state to combat antisemitism, including increased education and security for Jewish schools, but did not immediately respond when questioned directly about Mr Fuentes.
The far-right commenter has previously expressed a love of Adolf Hitler, and has backed Kanye West’s antisemitic rants, as well as saying his dream wife would be a 16-year-old girl.
Speaking to CNN amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, Mr DeSantis was questioned about an instance in which Mr Fuentes had dined with former president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
CNN’s John Bergman highlighted that Mr Fuentes is alleged to have said “I love Hitler”, and asked how Mr DeSantis felt about Republicans associating with him.
Somewhat dodging the question, Mr DeSantis replied: “Well, I reject all conspiracy theories of that nature.
“I think that we just have so much garbage in our society right now… Honestly it breaks my heart to see college students putting out praise of Hamas all across the board.
“I think we just have to, we just have to stand up together and, and do what’s right. And so yeah, look, I’m proud of what we’ve done in Florida.”
He continued: “You know, we’ve signed major legislation to combat antisemitism. We’ve provided security assistance for our Jewish day schools, and we’ve beefed up Holocaust education because it’s important that we never forget.
“So we’ve led by example here… and I think that’s part of the reason why we have such a strong community here.”
Pushed by CNN’s John Berman to give a “direct” answer about Mr Fuentes’ remarks and GOP members’ associations with him, he said: “Honestly, you were kind of garbled about Mar-a-Lago.
“I mean, someone was saying something bad. Obviously, my record speaks for itself.”
Asked again if Republicans should be eating with Mr Fuentes, Mr DeSantis said: “I would not do that.”
Mr Trump dined with Mr Fuentes and West at his Mar-a-Lago resort in 2022. Amid uproar, Mr Trump said Mr Fuentes had been a guest of the rapper and that he didn’t know who he was.
It comes after the US State Department announced on Wednesday that at least 22 American civilians had been killed in the violent attacks on Israel.
Speaking from the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday, president Joe Biden condemned the “unadulterated evil” unleashed by Hamas.
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