Donald Trump’s meeting with one of the US’s most prominent racists came as a result of the plans and schemes of Milo Yiannopoulos, a disgraced ex-Breitbart News editor who now appears to be running the 2024 politcal efforts of rapper Kanye West.
Mr West, who changed his name to “Ye” before sparking an ugly custody battle with his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, set off a political firestorm this week after he met with Mr Trump at the latter’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Joining him (and causing the scandal of the meeting to multiply exponentially) was white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes, a vocal racist and antisemite.
The former president has claimed in the days since the meeting to not have known Mr Fuentes or the extent of his hateful views before sitting down with him. Regardless, he faces a torrent of criticism from members of both parties in a scandal reminiscent of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally-turned-riot in Charlottesville, Virginia — which Mr Fuentes coincidentally attended.
That torrent of incoming fire appears to be the result of Mr Yiannopoulos’s efforts to “make Trump’s life miserable”, an explanation he gave to NBC News on Tuesday. A former right-wing provocateur who toured the country hosting events with a small entourage in front of young, right-wing audiences, Mr Yiannopolous lost his funding and political connections thanks to comments he made in 2017. Those comments appeared to condone paedophilia and evoked massive backlash.
He told NBC News that he worked to have Mr Fuentes tag along once the meeting with Mr Trump was planned. Mr Yiannopoulos went on to say he encountered no resistance as they were shepherded to a private table with the ex-president at his resort.
“I also wanted to send a message to Trump that he has systematically repeatedly neglected, ignored, abused the people who love him the most, the people who put him in office, and that kind of behavior comes back to bite you in the end,” Mr Yiannopoulos told the network.
A source close to the ex-president, meanwhile, described him as “totally blindsided” by the meeting and furious in the hours and days following.
“He tried to f*** me,” the source described to NBC as Mr Trump raging about Kanye West to his closest confidantes.
Mr West’s meeting for Mr Trump continued to cause problems on Tuesday as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was pressed on the issue after leaving a meeting with congressional leaders and Joe Biden at the White House. Republicans famously fumed throughout the Trump presidency about being forced to constantly answer for the president’s latest outrageous, offensive, and sometimes racist remarks. This latest controversy harkened back to a number of different moments throughout the four years Mr Trump was in office.
The ex-president announced his bid to retake the White House earlier this month. He is likely to face a handful of GOP challengers including his old vice president, Mike Pence, as well as Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and other ex-administration officials like Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo.