Chip Somodevilla/Getty I

Top Republicans are finding it harder to ignore the white nationalism of their friends.

Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic advisor, has become enmeshed in scandal because his recent birthday party had as its guest Peter Brimelow, editor of Vdare.com, a website that often publishes white nationalists. Kudlow and Brimelow are longstanding friends but Kudlow said he wasn’t aware of Brimelow’s views on race and immigration.

“If I had known this, we would never have invited him,” Kudlow told The Washington Post, which broke the story. “I’m disappointed and saddened to hear about it.” When read statements from Vdare.com Kudlow said this was “a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I’m a civil rights Republican.”

On one level, it’s hard to take Kudlow’s claim of total ignorance seriously. After all, Brimelow’s 1995 book Alien Nation: Common Sense about America’s Immigration Disaster, was a major event on the American right. Excerpted in National Review and a best-seller, it sparked a major debate in conservative circles. Kudlow would have to have been in complete oblivion to not have been aware of it, since he belongs to the very set of people, conservative pundits, who argued about the book so passionately.

Brimelow himself suggests a more likely scenario. “We agreed to disagree on immigration long ago,” he told The Washington Post. Given this, what is most probable is that Kudlow knew that his old friend Brimelow had some unpleasant views, but decided to turn a blind eye to them. There was no reason for Kudlow to trouble his mind by reading Vdare.com.

But Kudlow’s decision to simple ignore Brimelow’s views on race and immigration became impossible in the new political environment. Thanks to Donald Trump’s foregrounding of racial politics and the increasing number of over white nationalists running for public office as Republicans, Kudlow’s friendship with Brimelow was bound to get more scrutiny. The old script that Kudlow followed, of just agreeing not to talk to Brimelow about his unsavory beliefs, no longer works in the new era.