(JTA) – The far-right streaming host Alex Jones tried to throw his guest Kanye West a lifeline Thursday after weeks of the rapper’s public antisemitic behavior.
“You’re not Hitler. You’re not a Nazi,” Jones prodded West, who now goes by Ye, on his show “InfoWars,” a haven for right-wing conspiracy theories.
But Ye, or a man who sounded like Ye under a skintight all-black mask that completely covered his face, wanted to set the record straight.
“I see good things about Hitler, also,” he told Jones. “I like Hitler. … Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table. Especially Hitler.”
It was yet another shocking outburst from the former billionaire who dominated popular culture for decades before veering hard into antisemitism and extremist conspiracy theories. Ye’s declaration last month that he was going “death con 3 on Jewish people” and subsequent doubling down on further antisemitic behavior cost him billions of dollars in sponsorships, led to most of his friends and colleagues publicly distancing themselves from him and inspired antisemites across the country who have made “Kanye is right” a rallying cry.
And yet the rapper continues to have friends in high places, as evidenced by his reinstatement on Twitter at the hands of the world’s richest man Elon Musk and his dinner last week with former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, to which he had brought as a guest the antisemite, Charlottesville march organizer and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
The rapper’s visit to Jones’ studio with Fuentes was the latest stop on his media tour of right-wing fringe figures since being deplatformed by his major sponsors and allies. He also stopped by YouTuber Tim Pool’s show this week, with Fuentes and fellow alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos by his side, but stormed out when Pool challenged him on his antisemitism.
Jones, who also has a longstanding connection to Trump, is no stranger to trafficking in odious conspiracy theories, having recently been ordered by a jury to pay $1 billion to victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting after claiming on his program that it was a hoax. He has also embraced antisemitism to a degree, telling Ye on Thursday, “I agree there’s a Jewish mafia.”
But his strategy for Ye’s appearance was to try to mitigate and redirect public criticism of his guest, giving him multiple opportunities to disavow his praise for Nazis. “I dont think the story should be about antisemitism or Nazis or anything,” Jones said at one point — but was interrupted by Ye, who said, “I like Nazis, though.”
Later, Jones described the horrors of the Nazi death camps, as described to him by someone he knew who, he said, participated in their liberation as a U.S. soldier. “I don’t like Hitler. He was terrible,” Jones said. Ye immediately countered: “I like Hitler!” Jones offered yet another lifeline: “I know you’re trying to be shocking.”
“I’m not trying to be shocking. I like Hitler,” Ye said, adding, “Hitler had a lot of redeeming qualities.”
Ye’s fascination with Hitler is longstanding, according to the accounts of people who worked with him and who have spoken up about his past comments since he launched his antisemitic spree. But on Jones’ show, he emphasized that he loves everyone, including Jews, Zionists, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Trump, who is also running for president in 2024, has faced intense criticism — including from many of his Republican Jewish allies — over his dinner with Ye and Fuentes. One of those who criticized him was the incoming Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. On Jones’ show Ye offered a kind of Netanyahu impersonation, pulling out a small orange net and pretending to speak as the Israeli leader in a falsetto voice. “I just heard about this guy two weeks ago,” he said.
Toward the end of the livestream, which lasted well over three hours, Jones welcomed a call from Laura Loomer, the Jewish far-right activist and onetime congressional candidate who is waging a campaign to get her account reinstated on Twitter. She said she had been asked how she, a Jewish woman, could support Ye, and explained, “This is more than just somebody being Jewish, somebody being Christian. This is about the truth and fighting for free speech.” (“Love you,” Ye responded.)
The Republican Jewish Coalition, which had initially condemned the Trump-Ye-Fuentes dinner without mentioning Trump by name but later clarified it was referring to “all Republicans,” said in a statement that the rapper’s “InfoWars” appearance “was a horrific cesspool of dangerous, bigoted Jew hatred” and added, “Conservatives who have mistakenly indulged Kanye West must make it clear that he is a pariah. Enough is enough.”
Ye had one final trick up his sleeve: In response to Musk reinstating him on Twitter, he said he would be handing over his account to Jones and Fuentes, as Musk has previously said he would draw the line at bringing back Jones’ account. Tweets purportedly authored by Jones and Fuentes then began appearing in Ye’s account.
Ye also had a successful year on the Billboard charts in spite of everything, with the album sales tracker noting Thursday that he was the year’s “Top Gospel Artist” and “Top Christian Artist,” and that his 2021 album “Donda” was 2022’s top gospel album.