NEW YORK (AP) — Speaking at a conference of Orthodox Jews on Friday, Donald Trump did not address a widely criticized private meal he shared last month with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and a rapper who has spewed antisemitic conspiracies.
The former president told the audience he was “the best ally you’ve ever had.”
Over and over, Trump heaped praise on the Jewish people and highlighted his support for Israel as he addressed the annual President’s Conference of Torah Umesorah at his National Doral club in Miami. He alleged Congress was “almost anti-Israel” and said without evidence that some Democrats in Washington “hate Israel with a passion.”
Trump is struggling for political momentum a month after becoming the first official candidate to enter the 2024 presidential contest. He hoped the early announcement might scare off potential challengers, but a series of political setbacks have instead left him deeply vulnerable as he ramps up his third presidential campaign.
The 76-year-old Republican faced pointed criticism from within his own party late last month after dining with Holocaust-denying white supremacist Nick Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West. Shortly after the meeting, West, who is now known as Ye, said, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence called on Trump to apologize for the meeting and said the former president had “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment.”
Trump at the time said he was not aware of his dinner guests’ views.
On Friday, Trump ignored the episode altogether. He also quoted his own 2019 State of the Union address in which he highlighted the importance of speaking out against antisemitism.
“We must never ignore the vile poison of antisemitism or those who spread its venomous creed,” Trump said, reading from his own remarks. “With one voice we must confront this hatred; we must confront it everywhere; we must confront it very, very strongly.”
The audience interrupted his remarks with standing ovations multiple times.
“I believe I’m the best ally you’ve ever had,” Trump said.