(NewsNation) — Former Vice President Mike Pence said former President Donald Trump should apologize for dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist who joined the rapper Ye formerly known as Kanye West at Mar-a-Lago last week, but said he doesn’t believe the former president is antisemitic.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier, a seat at the table and I think he should apologize for it,” Pence told NewsNation’s Leland Vittert on Monday.
The backlash comes just days after Trump hosted Ye, as well as far-right activist Nick Fuentes, at his Florida home.
Fuentes has used his online platform to spew antisemitic and white nationalist rhetoric, while Ye was recently dropped by multiple brands, including his signature partner Adidas, for antisemitic remarks.
Pence called on his former boss to denounce his guests’ “hateful rhetoric without qualification” and said antisemitism remains “a very real issue in the world today.”
Despite the recent dinner, the former vice president said he doesn’t believe Trump holds his visitors’ hateful views.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite; I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot,” said Pence. “I would not have been his vice president if he was.”
In a series of statements last week, Trump said he had never met Fuentes before he “showed up” with Ye at his club. He said the rapper did not express antisemitism in his company.
The criticism of his former boss marks a noticeable shift for Pence, who remained loyal to Trump throughout his four years in office.
When asked whether he regrets that loyalty, Pence stood by his decision to join the administration and said he was proud of what they accomplished together.
He predicts that voters will move on from the former president in 2024.
“He (Trump) was the right man at the right time to take on that Clinton machine,” said Pence. “I’m confident Republican primary voters will have better choices for 2024.”
When asked about his own presidential aspirations, Pence said he’s still deciding whether or not to run in the next election.
The former VP has spent the last year traveling the country to rally support for Republican candidates and has made multiple stops in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“What I’ve heard again and again from people is they want to get back to the policies of the Trump-Pence years, but they want leadership that at least has the chance of uniting our country around our highest ideals,” he said.