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Hawaii Gov. Ige looks back on coronavirus, tourism shutdown

HONOLULU (AP) — As Hawaii’s governor, David Ige faced a volcanic eruption that destroyed 700 homes, protests blocking construction of a cutting-edge multibillion-dollar telescope and a false alert about an incoming ballistic missile. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism shut down and Hawaii’s unemployment rate soared to 22.4%.

Crisis response is one way to sum up the Democrat’s eight years leading Hawaii, which are due to wrap up when his successor, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, is inaugurated on Dec. 5.

“It’s stressful, especially during public health emergencies,” Ige said during a recent interview reflecting on his two terms in office. “There are people who don’t like what you do and they don’t like decisions made. And today, they can let you know that.”

Yet the 65-year-old former electrical engineer said that he agrees with other governors who told him shortly after his 2014 election that he was about to get the best job he could ever have.

“You have direct impact on the quality of people’s lives. What we do matters to people every single day,” Ige said.

Ige cited progress he made on affordable housing and homelessness. But he’s most proud of how he responded to the pandemic, and it’s what he’d like to be remembered for after he leaves.

A report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based nonprofit foundation, found Hawaii had the lowest “excess mortality” rate among the 50 states, a statistic measuring deaths that exceed historical norms for a given time and place. Ige said that Hawaii’s health care system was always able to care for both COVID-19 patients and others throughout the pandemic.

Ige said that he wanted to protect Hawaii’s older people and the health and safety of residents. He didn’t want Hawaii’s hospitals to be overwhelmed, since people would have difficulty getting medical care from a neighboring state.

“We knew that it’s not about driving somebody to the next county or flying somebody to get services. We’re 2,500 miles away from anywhere,” Ige said.

Ige signed executive orders that required wearing masks in public and limiting the size of gatherings. Unique among the 50 states, Hawaii imposed a 14-day quarantine on incoming travelers and actively enforced it. This order effectively shuttered the state’s tourism industry, which is a key economic driver, but officials believe that it also slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Kirk Caldwell, who was Honolulu’s mayor when the pandemic began, said that Ige was under “huge pressure” from people urging him to impose public health protections faster. Later, people pushed him to ease up as conditions improved.

Ige also juggled some counties wanting more restrictions while others wanted looser rules.

Honolulu City Councilmember Andria Tupola, who ran against Ige as the Republican nominee for governor in 2018, praised Ige’s even temperament and acceptance of criticism. But she said that he should have shared power with state legislators or held public hearings instead of issuing COVID-19 executive orders for two years.

“You got to pull back and you got to wean yourself off of making all the decisions, and then start to trust that other leaders collectively can join in the decision making,” she said.

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki, a Democrat, said that Ige’s cautious approach contributed to both successes and failures. It was important for Ige to avoid making hasty decisions and to not overreact during the pandemic, but too often the governor suffered from “analysis paralysis,” he said.

“There were so many times when we wanted him to just take control of the situation, and provide some leadership and direction,” Saiki said. “And it just didn’t happen.”

Lawmakers stepped in on multiple occasions to take on roles that one would expect of the executive branch.

Saiki pointed to how the Legislature mobilized volunteers to help the state process unemployment insurance claims pouring in during the pandemic. He also said that lawmakers worked with Honolulu hospitals to set up two COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics.

There’s also the Thirty Meter Telescope project. The prolonged standoff over its construction on the summit of Mauna Kea, a place many Native Hawaiians consider sacred, deepened community divide.

The House later created a working group that developed recommendations for a new approach to managing Mauna Kea, leading to legislation that Ige signed.

The governor said that he regularly evaluated his response to emergencies and tried to adjust.

“It’s always about being focused on priorities to help you make decisions, and then doing what’s best for the community,” he said. “I’ve tried to make sure that we maintain that focus.”

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said that he admired Ige’s ability to handle difficult situations and criticism with grace. He said he aspired to be that kind of leader.

“I’ve just seen a person that was willing to stand in the middle of a storm, wake up every single day and give it his all,” Kawakami said.

Several people who worked closely with Ige said that they never saw him lose his temper or lash out at colleagues, even in stressful situations. Observers from near and far said that they never heard him speak ill of anyone.

Ige didn’t deflect responsibility in 2018 when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, or HIEMA, terrified residents by accidentally sending an alert across airwaves and cell phones saying that a ballistic missile was heading to the islands.

Caldwell said that a more typical politician would have found someone to blame, fired them and swiftly stepped away from the issue.

“Instead he stood up immediately and apologized for the mistakes made by HIEMA, and continued to apologize throughout the rest of the day and throughout the rest of the week,” Caldwell said.

After an internal investigation, the employee who sent the alert was fired . Ige wouldn’t be pressured by the public or the media into rushing a decision, Caldwell said.

“He’s the most non-politician politician that I’ve come across in my time as mayor,” Caldwell said.

Once out of office, Ige hopes to exercise more, boosting his once-weekly runs to three to four times a week.

He plans to take some software development classes and looks forward to visiting his children living in California and Washington state.

He’s not interested in serving in Congress and doesn’t plan to run for another elected office. He said that he enjoyed his time as governor.

“I worked very hard to do the right thing in the right way on behalf of the community,” he said.


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Ga. Senate runoff between Warnock, Walker has bitter closing

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Ads with the candidates’ ex-wives. Cries of “liar” flying in both directions. Stories of a squalid apartment building and abortions under pressure. Questioning an opponent’s independence. His intellect. His mental stability. His religious faith.

The extended Senate campaign in Georgia between the Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock, and his Republican challenger, football legend Herschel Walker, has grown increasingly bitter as their Dec. 6 runoff nears. With Democrats already assured a Senate majority, it’s a striking contrast from two years ago, when the state’s twin runoffs were mostly about which party would control the chamber in Washington.

“Herschel Walker ain’t serious,” Warnock told supporters recently in central Georgia, saying that Walker “majors in lying” and fumbles the basics of public policy. “But the election is very serious. Don’t get those two things confused.”

Walker casts Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, as a “hypocrite” and servile to President Joe Biden. Underscoring the insult, Walker calls the incumbent “Scooby-Doo,” complete with an impression of the cartoon hound’s gibberish.

The broadsides reflect the candidates’ furious push in the four weeks between the Nov. 8 general election and runoff to persuade their core supporters to cast another ballot. For Walker, it also means drawing more independents and moderates to his campaign after he underperformed a fellow Republican on the ticket, Gov. Brian Kemp, by 200,000 votes.

Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast in the first round, but the senator fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

In many ways, the shift from his first runoff campaign is exactly what Warnock wanted: a straightforward choice between two candidates. Two years ago, then-President Donald Trump, fresh off his defeat, and Biden, then president-elect, made multiple Georgia trips to illuminate the national stakes of the races between Warnock and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Sen. David Perdue as control of the Senate hung in the balance.

Trump ended up alienating his own supporters and many moderates with his false claims of a rigged 2020 presidential election. Victories by Warnock and Ossoff put the Senate at a 50-50 split, with Democrats gaining control by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. Warnock also became Georgia’s first Black senator.

This year, with Warnock vying for a full six-year term after winning the 2021 special election, Democrats have already guaranteed control of the Senate by flipping a seat in Pennsylvania. A Warnock win would give Democrats an outright majority at 51-49, meaning that the parties would not have to negotiate a power-sharing agreement.

Warnock’s preferred emphasis for most of his reelection bid has been his deal-making in Washington and the personal values he brings to the job. It took until the campaign’s final stages — only after two women accused Walker, an opponent of abortion rights, of encouraging and paying for their abortions — for the senator to ratchet up his attacks, arguing Walker is “unprepared” and “unfit” for the job.

“My opponent lies about everything,” Warnock said in a recent campaign stop, ticking off a litany of Walker’s repeated falsehoods and exaggerations. “He said he was a police officer. He’s not. He said he worked for the FBI. He did not. Said he graduated from the University of Georgia. He did not. Said he was valedictorian of his class. He was not. … He said he had another business with 800 employees. It has eight.”

Walker, alternately, has relished the jousting since he won the GOP nomination in the spring.

“Herschel is a competitor. He’s very comfortable with the mano a mano,” said Scott Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, noting the candidate’s athletic prowess as a football running back, kickboxer and Olympic bobsledder.

Indeed, Walker takes his attacks right to Warnock’s strengths as the pastor of the famous church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Walker has criticized Warnock over an Atlanta apartment building, owned by a foundation of Warnock’s church, where residents have complained to The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative media outlet, of eviction notices and poor conditions.

“What he’s doing in this apartment building at Columbia Towers is not right,” Walker said recently at a suburban Atlanta campaign stop. “You shouldn’t put Jesus’ name on what you’re doing to people, and don’t put Martin Luther King name on it. … You’re not Jesus, and you’re not Dr. King.”

Warnock, who says no residents of Columbia Tower have been evicted, incorporates Walker’s attacks into the list of the challenger’s documented exaggerations and falsehoods. “What kind of a person lies on the church?” Warnock said in Macon. “This isn’t the first time people attacked Ebenezer Baptist Church. They attacked Martin Luther King Jr. I’m in good company.”

Still, asked whether he’s reconsidered his church’s stewardship of Columbia Towers, Warnock sidestepped: “I’ve already answered the question. I’m proud of what my church does to feed and house the hungry and the homeless every single week.”

Walker also accuses Warnock of “getting rich” as a senator, a nod to the pastor’s $7,500-a-month housing allowance from the church. The payments are not a violation of Senate ethics rules that limit senators’ outside income.

On at least one occasion during the runoff, Walker has suggested Warnock is a negligent father. Warnock told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the comment “crossed a line.” Earlier in the campaign, Walker publicly acknowledged three of his children for the first time, doing so only after The Daily Beast reported on their existence. Warnock has not mentioned those children in any of his critiques of Walker.

Walker, meanwhile, has not taken reporters’ questions at an open campaign event since late October, when a second accuser came forward to say he had pressured her to have an abortion — a contradiction of his advocacy as a candidate for a national ban on all abortions. Walker has denied the women’s claims.

Both candidates’ former wives also loom in the campaign, though the two men avoid the topic themselves, leaving the discussion of their marriages mostly to paid advertising. In one ad, Warnock’s former wife tells Atlanta police that he ran over her foot. The Republican ad doesn’t note that a police report states that officers found no physical evidence supporting her claim. A Democratic ad features an interview with Walker’s first wife detailing that he threatened violence against her, circumstances Walker has confirmed in an autobiography.

Since the two men met for their lone debate Oct. 14, Warnock has hammered Walker for a lack of policy details and sometimes flubbing what policy he does discuss.

Warnock promotes his new federal legal provision capping insulin costs for Medicare recipients and notes Walker said diabetics could manage their health by “eating right,” a practice that isn’t enough for insulin-dependent diabetic patients.

“Maybe he ought to apply to be a dietician. I’m running for the United States Senate,” Warnock said in Macon.

He pounced when Walker declared the United States is “not ready” for climate action and should “keep having those gas-guzzling cars” that he said already have “good emissions” standards. Warnock added gleeful mockery when Walker recently introduced a tangent about vampires to a campaign speech.

“I mean, who says that kind of stuff?” Warnock asked supporters.

Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, insisted the Republicans’ best argument remains Warnock’s alignment with Democrats on economic policy. Still, he acknowledges the campaign’s tone has darkened.

“We’re certainly going to continue to aggressively prosecute the case against Warnock,” he said, “and I suspect they’ll do the same.”

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections


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US soccer displays Iran flag minus Islamic Republic emblem

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The U.S. soccer federation briefly displayed Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, saying the move supports protesters in Iran ahead of the two nations’ World Cup match Tuesday.

Iran’s government reacted by accusing America of removing the name of God from their national flag.

The decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation adds yet-another political firestorm to the Middle East’s first World Cup, one which organizers had hoped would be spared of off-the-field controversies.

It also comes as the U.S. faces Iran in a decisive World Cup match, which was already freighted by the decades of enmity between the two countries and the nationwide protests now challenging Tehran’s theocratic government.

The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement Sunday morning that it decided to forego the official flag on social media accounts to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”

The Twitter account of the U.S. men’s team displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colors. The same could be seen in a post on its Facebook and Instagram accounts laying out the point totals so far in its group.

By Sunday afternoon, the normal flag with the emblem had been restored in the Twitter banner as attention to it grew.

“We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours,” the federation said.

The U.S. Soccer Federation displayed the official Iranian flag in a graphic showing Group B standings on its website.

The brief absence of the emblem comes as monthslong demonstrations have challenged Iran’s government since the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s morality police.

The protests have seen at least 450 people killed since they started, as well as over 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group following the demonstrations.

Iran has not released casualty or arrest figures for months and alleges without providing evidence that the protests have been fomented by its enemies abroad, including the U.S.

Tehran also restricts press access and has detained over 63 reporters and photographers since the demonstrations began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making covering the unrest that much more difficult.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations and its soccer federation did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. As comments raged online, Iranian state television described the U.S. federation as “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag.

Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to the Iranian Football Federation, saying that the “measures taken regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran flag are against the law” of FIFA competitions.

“They must be held responsible,” Fagahanpour said. “Obviously they want to affect Iran’s performance against the U.S by doing this.”

The Islamic Republic emblem, designed in 1980, is four curves with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic saying: “There is no god but God.” It also resembles a tulip or lotus.

At the top and the bottom of the flag, there are 22 inscriptions of “God is Great” as well, which honors the date on the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution took hold.

The flag has become a point of contention at the World Cup. Apparent pro-government supporters have waved it, shouting at those demonstrating over Amini’s death. Others at matches have waved Iran’s lion and sun flag, an emblem of its former ruler, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

More security forces could be seen at Iran’s last match against Wales. In the capital Tehran, anti-riot police — the same ones cracking down on protests — waved the Iranian flag after the Wales win, angering demonstrators.

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Associated Press writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.


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Police: 2 young children stabbed to death in Bronx apartment

NEW YORK (AP) — Two small children died of stab wounds after their mother was taken into custody for observation Saturday night in New York City, police said.

A 3-year-old boy and an 11-month-old boy were found in a Bronx apartment with multiple stab wounds to the neck and torso and did not survive after being transported to a hospital, police said.

The 24-year-old mother of the children had been taken into custody and transported to a hospital less than an hour earlier after acting erratically at an address on Echo Place in Mount Hope.

The mother was not arrested and the children’s father was not taken into custody, Deputy Chief Louis De Ceglie of Patrol Borough Bronx said during a press briefing late Saturday.

Officers responded to a report of a “female acting erratic, but non-violent, with no weapons” around 7:20 p.m., De Ceglie said.

Police were told a woman was trying to burn items in the kitchen and found her in the third-floor apartment “acting irrational,” De Ceglie said.

She was taken into custody without incident until the arrival of an ambulance, which transported her to St. Barnabas Hospital for evaluation at about 7:50 p.m. Before leaving for the hospital, officers were told by a family friend that the children were with their father, De Ceglie said.

A 911 call at 7:55 p.m. for the same location reported two children were not breathing. He said officers returned to the apartment and found the boys with multiple wounds.

De Ceglie said officers and a family member tried to resuscitate the children while awaiting an ambulance, which took them to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center where they died.

“Despite the officers’ best efforts, both children succumbed to their injuries,” De Ceglie said.

Police had a “person of interest” in custody and were continuing the investigation, he said.


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Shooting in Atlanta neighborhood kills 1 person, wounds 5

ATLANTA (AP) — A shooting in an Atlanta neighborhood Saturday evening killed one person and wounded five, police said.

The Atlanta Police Department said several shots were fired during a dispute around 8 p.m. on the 17th Street bridge in Atlantic Station, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Police said the shooting occurred after a group of people was escorted off the Atlantic Station open air mall property by security and off-duty Atlanta police officers.

“At this time, we have one male on scene deceased and several others were transported to area hospitals,” Lt. Germaine Dearlove, Atlanta police homicide commander, said during a media briefing late Saturday.

The deceased victim was between the ages of 15 and 21, WSB-TV reported.

Atlantic Station is a private property consisting primarily of retail and residential space. A statement emailed to The Associated Press by a representative said the company was aware of the shooting and cooperating with investigators.

“APD and EMS immediately responded to an altercation within a group that led to shots being fired with possible injuries,” the statement said. “The community’s safety continues to be our top priority, and we are working closely with law enforcement during this active investigation.”


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Police: 1 killed, 3 shot breaking into Georgia home

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (AP) — An 18-year-old was killed and three others were injured Friday in a shooting after they attempted to break into a DeKalb County home, police said.

Officers arrived around 5 p.m. and found three people — a 23-year-old, 18-year-old and 15-year-old — who had been shot, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. All three were taken to a hospital. A 30-year-old suspect arrived at the hospital later. One of the injured suspects, Taneaious McCune, died.

Police say at least four people were inside the home at the time of the break-in. One of the suspects and a man exchanged gunfire. Officials say the shooting appears to be justified and no charges are expected.

“Our initial investigation indicates this was a targeted incident and not a random act,” police told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The four subjects … attempted a home invasion.”

The three injured suspects are in custody.


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Drive-by shooting injures 2 at funeral at Nashville church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A drive-by shooting in Nashville on Saturday injured two people as they and others were walking out of church from the funeral of a woman who was fatally shot earlier this month, according to police.

Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said the afternoon shooting occurred outside New Season Church, where a funeral service had just ended for 19-year-old Terriana Johnson. The hearse was parked out front with the rear door open and people were filing out of church as the shots began, Aaron said.

Police say they are on the lookout for a black late-model Honda Civic with a temporary tag, from which one shooter or more fired as the car passed by, hitting an 18-year-old woman in the leg and a 25-year-old man in the pelvis. Neither were considered life-threatening injuries, Aaron said.

Some attendees of the funeral services for Johnson — who was not a member of the church that was hosting — were armed and fired back at the car, Aaron said.

The shooting occurred before Johnson’s body was brought out of the church, according to police, and her burial took place later in the afternoon.

Authorities remain on the lookout for a 17-year-old charged with criminal homicide in Johnson’s fatal shooting on Nov. 14 at Watkins Park. Police allege that the teen opened fire on a car in which Johnson was riding after Johnson and the suspect’s sister were involved in a fight moments earlier.

Aaron said the shooting “appears to be some type of beef between two groups of people,” but not necessarily between members of the two families.

“This was just a brazen shooting,” Aaron told reporters. “These persons have no regard for human life at all.”


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12-year-old dies in Russian Roulette; murder charges brought

A 12-year-old boy is dead after playing Russian Roulette with peers in Jackson, Mississippi, police say.

Jackson’s Deputy Police Chief Deric Hearn identified the boy as Markell Noah, according to reports by Mississippi-based WLBT-TV.

Following the death officers arrested two juveniles and one adult Friday. Police say the two juveniles are being charged with murder and the adult is being charged with accessory after the fact of murder.

No further details were given at the time, but police said an investigation is ongoing.


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Whole Foods decision to pull lobster divides enviros, pols

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Environmental groups are once again at odds with politicians and fishermen in New England in the wake of a decision by high-end retail giant Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster.

Whole Foods recently said that it will stop selling lobster from the Gulf of Maine at hundreds of its stores around the country. The company cited decisions by a pair of sustainability organizations to take away their endorsements of the U.S. lobster fishing industry.

The organizations, Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, both cited concerns about risks to rare North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. Entanglement in gear is one of the biggest threats to the whales.

The decision by Whole Foods was an “important action to protect the highly endangered” whale, said Virginia Carter, an associate with the Save America’s Wildlife Campaign at Environment America Research & Policy Center.

“With fewer than 340 North Atlantic right whales in existence, the species is swimming toward extinction unless things turn around,” Carter said.

Whole Foods said in a statement last week that it’s monitoring the situation and “committed to working with suppliers, fisheries, and environmental advocacy groups as it develops.”

The company’s decision to stop selling lobster drew immediate criticism in Maine, which is home to the U.S.’s largest lobster fishing industry. The state’s Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, and its four-member congressional delegation said in a statement that Marine Stewardship Council’s decision to suspend its certification of Gulf of Maine lobster came despite years of stewardship and protection of whales by Maine fishermen.

“Despite this, the Marine Stewardship Council, with retailers following suit, wrongly and blindly decided to follow the recommendations of misguided environmental groups rather than science,” Mills and the delegation said.

Whole Foods was not the first retailer to take lobster off the menu over sustainability concerns. HelloFresh, the meal kit company, was among numerous retailers to pledge to stop selling lobster in September after California-based Seafood Watch placed American and Canadian lobster fisheries on its “red list” of seafoods to avoid.


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Biden, family hit Nantucket stores for some holiday shopping

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — President Joe Biden went holiday shopping on the Massachusetts resort island where he spends Thanksgiving, patronizing smaller independently owned stores on what the retail industry has called “Small Business Saturday.”

Biden, his wife, Jill, and daughter Ashley went from store to store on Main Street in downtown Nantucket, lingering at Polo Ralph Lauren, Murray’s Toggery Shop and The Black Dog, among other establishments.

The president’s son Hunter and his wife, Melissa, were also shopping with their 2-year-old son, Beau.

Biden emerged from The Black Dog holding a small brown paper shopping bag. The White House had no immediate comment on the president’s purchases.

The retail industry came up with the moniker to help independent and locally owned business gain a share of the holiday shopping rush and to counter the markdowns and deeper discounts larger corporate retailers offer to drum up business on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday.

As Biden went from store to store, a reporter asked what he thought about a dinner meeting former President Donald Trump recently had at his Florida home with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist.

Both of Trump’s dinner guests have expressed anti-semitic views. Trump has said he did not know anything about Fuentes’ background.

“You don’t want to hear what I think,” Biden replied. Biden has said such views have no place in America.

Biden also shopped in downtown Nantucket on Friday before the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.


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