Wilders posted the picture to his Twitter account, writing, “Great to meet with US Senator @LindseyGrahamSC.” The post was deleted shortly after it was published.
Wilders has drawn criticism for his views toward Islam. He has advocated for a tax on women who wear a hijab, supported a ban on Muslims immigrating to the Netherlands and said he feared a future with “more mosques than churches” in his country.
“I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam,” he once said.
During his presentation Saturday, Wilders predicted that nationalist parties in Europe would make a strong comeback. “I believe there is a lot of support among the people, especially on the issue of immigration,” he said.
Graham was traveling back to Washington on Sunday and could not be reached for comment to explain his exchange with the Dutch figure.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said Sunday that the senator took pictures with many of the attendees at the forum and that Graham has no idea why Wilders deleted the tweet with the picture of them.
“Mr. Wilder took a photo with Sen. Graham as did many others at the conference,” Bishop said, adding that he has “no idea why Mr. Wilder removed the photo from Twitter. You may want to ask him.”
Graham and Wilders were not expected to appear on any panels together at the forum, which the GOP senator has attended in the past. Two years ago, Graham flew to Italy for the forum with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), just weeks after his close friend had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
McCain, a fierce critic of President Trump’s foreign policy, used that appearance at the Ambrosetti Forum to call for U.S. leaders to remain engaged in the world and praised American diversity. McCain criticized the white nationalists who had marched in Charlottesville just weeks before his address at the forum and praised citizens helping with hurricane relief along the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is America at its best — ordinary people, despite long odds, rising to master moments of extraordinary challenge, powered by their belief in that most simple and audacious of ideas — that all people are created equal,” McCain said.
Graham, who worked with McCain on immigration legislation in 2013 that would have created a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, has become one of Trump’s most trusted allies in Congress, particularly since McCain died Aug. 25, 2018.