Senator Marco Rubio had a particularly aggressive rebuke of Nick Fuentes, one of America’s most infamous white nationalists and antisemites, on Monday after former President Donald Trump faced another day of questions and criticism surrounding the Mar-a-Lago meetup with Mr Fuentes and rapper Kanye West.
The Florida Republican made the comment to CNN, telling the network that Mr Fuentes “is a purveyor and a spreader of an evil, poison”.
“I hope he will [condemn Fuentes],” Mr Rubio continued. “Because I know he’s not an antisemite. I can tell you that for a fact that Trump is not, but this guy is evil. And that guy’s just a nasty, disgusting person. He’s an a** clown.”
Mr Rubio’s sharp words are notable because of his willingness to align himself with the former president just two days before this year’s midterm elections at a rally in Florida; Mr Rubio beat back a Democratic challenger, Val Demings, while Republicans saw a strong showing across the state but a dismal performance virtually everywhere else in the country. In the days since the results have poured in and it became clear the GOP would not take the Senate, many in the upper chamber and GOP media class have turned their fire on the former president and blamed his slate of untested political newcomers for their misfortunes.
Another top target of their ire has been Mr Rubio’s Florida colleague, Senator Rick Scott, who chairs the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.
Mr Rubio’s quick and forceful condemnation of Mr Fuentes could mean that the Florida senator does not feel the same hesitation towards criticising Mr Trump or fear of being seen as disloyal. That could be important in 2024, when Mr Trump faces challenges for the Republican presidential nomination including most importantly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the only Republican who currently polls competitively alongside the former president.
Mr Rubio famously fought Mr Trump for the 2016 GOP nomination, only to drop out of the race after being defeated in his home state.
Other senators have issued similar condemnations of Mr Fuentes and antisemitic views over the past 48 hours while their colleagues in the House, widely known to be more closely aligned with Mr Trump, have been far quieter. A number of Republican House members have appeared alongside Fuentes at his events in the past, drawing accusations of antisemitism and racism.
Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene famously insisted that she did not endorse Mr Fuentes’s views after speaking at his event in February.
"It wasn't an alignment [with Fuentes]. It was to talk about getting everyone together to save our country," she argued to CBS News.