The Trump era has frequently involved Republicans feeling compelled to pretend that former president Donald Trump said something he didn’t actually say — or vice versa.
After a White House meeting Tuesday, McCarthy was asked to weigh-in on the week-old controversy, which has finally, belatedly, drawn GOP responses. But while sharply criticizing Fuentes and his ideology, McCarthy falsely claimed that both Trump and another big-name Republican who appeared with Fuentes, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), had “denounced” Fuentes.
That’s not true in either case. And in one case in particular, McCarthy should be well aware of that fact.
Appearing at the White House, McCarthy said of Fuentes: “I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party. I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him, and didn’t know who he was.”
Trump has in fact not condemned Fuentes. Indeed, as with many fringe figures he has cozied up to, Trump has rather conspicuously declined to do so — apparently fearing that it could turn off a portion of his base, however large that portion is.
Rather than denouncing Fuentes, Trump has merely said he knew “nothing about” him, later amending that to say he “didn’t know” him. You could perhaps argue Trump meant to distance himself from Fuentes, but he did not denounce him or his ideology — much less “four times,” as McCarthy claimed.
McCarthy’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for examples of Trump supposedly denouncing Fuentes.
Indeed, many Republicans have effectively accepted Trump’s explanation that he didn’t know whom he had met with, generously blaming the encounter on staffers who allowed the meeting to happen. But McCarthy took it quite a bit further, attempting to put words in Trump’s mouth that Trump refuses to speak himself.
(When a reporter quickly pointed out that Trump hadn’t denounced Fuentes, McCarthy responded: “Well, I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society at all.”)
How deliberate is that revisionism? Look no further than the other person McCarthy on Tuesday falsely claimed had “denounced” Fuentes: Greene.
“She denounced him,” McCarthy said curtly when asked about Greene.
On this one, it’s significantly less plausible that McCarthy is unfamiliar with the details. That’s because he dealt with the situation personally.
In February, Greene became the second GOP lawmaker in two years to appear at Fuentes’s America First Political Action Conference. Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) had appeared the year before and drew condemnations, but that apparently didn’t dissuade Greene from doing the same a year later. (Gosar also appeared in a brief video at the latter year’s conference, but his staff claimed it was a mix-up.)
When the situation again blew up, Greene was actually rather defiant. She too claimed she didn’t know Fuentes or his views or those of his group — despite deciding to hop on a plane to appear at the conference — and told CBS News that she didn’t endorse them. “I do not know what his views are so I am not aligned with anything that is controversial,” she added elsewhere.
But that’s hardly denouncing Fuentes. What’s more, Greene in a lengthy Twitter thread tweeted a video of her appearance and defended it.
Being truly America First means rejecting the Democrat obsession with skin color, sexuality, and gender. It means having the courage to stop agonizing over fake divisions and disingenuous allegations from our godless and gutless mainstream media.— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) February 27, 2022
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.— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) February 27, 2022
She said she would share her message in “every corner and every group within America. … 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 attacked her GOP critics as “Pharisees” and described the group as “1,200 people gathered to declare that Christ is King.” (Among other things they gathered to declare: that Russian President Vladimir Putin is good and, according to Fuentes, that his group’s strength derives from “these young White men.”)
McCarthy soon labeled Fuentes’s message “appalling” and assured that he would “have a discussion” with Greene about her appearance. A week later, McCarthy said he had spoken with Greene and added, “She will not go again.”
“There’s no place for what has gone on with that organization, by far, and there never will be in this party, and it will never be tolerated,” McCarthy said.
Less than nine months later, Fuentes was able to meet with the former president of the United States who continues to lead McCarthy’s party. And by declining to truly press the issue with Greene or Trump, he’s certainly tolerated it to a large extent.