CPAC 2020 was all about worshiping Trump, hating socialism, and feeling victimized by media and the left
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was once a place of vigorous debate among right of center intellectuals. This year, however, philosophical diversity was almost non-existent. Heretics like Mitt Romney were slammed at every opportunity, and uncritical worship of Trump was everywhere. This year's theme was "America v. Socialism," but looming just as large was a feeling among the speakers and attendees that they and the president are under constant attack by the media and "the left." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual DC-area gathering, once epitomized Ronald Reagan's vision of "big-tent conservatism." That meant vigorous debates among right-of-center intellectuals representing the neoconservative foreign policy hawks, socially conservative evangelical Christians, non-interventionist free market libertarians, and any other reliable Republican voting bloc. In 2020, philosophical diversity was almost non-existent at CPAC. Save for a panel focused on tech companies' deplatforming of certain right-of-center voices — where audience members fumed at some of the panelists' suggestions that government intervention might actually be worse than "big tech censorship" — there was almost universal agreement on the big themes of the conference. These major themes of CPAC 2020 included:
Donald Trump is the greatest president in modern history, and the way he's been treated by Democrats and the media is unprecedented and abhorrent. Socialism is evil, and the moderate 2020 Democratic candidates are barely less socialistic than Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vice President Mike Pence actually said "there are no moderate Democrats in this field" in his Thursday CPAC speech). The "left" is comprised of snowflake crybabies, who are also authoritarian bullies systematically silencing conservatives and indoctrinating the younger generation through the media and culture.
The right's young stars attacked their culture war enemies ... and Mitt Romney Kicking off this year's conference, which was titled "America v. Socialism," was Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a freshman member of Congress with a rising national profile. In his Wednesday speech, he warned of "this culture war" which he said "is going to be the battle of our times." He added that this would be a "battle between those who believe America is good and those who believe in the notion of socialist revolution who believe we are inherently bad." Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, an influential conservative youth activist group with strong ties to the White House, helped set the "small Republican" tent tenor of the proceedings. At the first mention of Mitt Romney's name, the audience booed, and Kirk responded, "Every time his name is mentioned you should react this way." "Blexit" founder Candace Owens spent much of her Thursday speech attacking former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a "race hustler." In particular, she referenced a tweet Kaepernick sent last Thanksgiving about the U.S. government's appropriation of land from indigenous people, which she countered with a long diatribe about Aztec cannibalism and human sacrifice. On Thursday, the main ballroom featured "FBI Lovebirds," a play starring "Lois and Clark" actor Dean Cain and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actress Kristy Swanson as ex-FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The play consisted almost entirely of the Strzok and Page's texts to each other, but was meant to demonstrate a "Deep State " conspiracy against Trump from before the time he took office. Naomi Seibt, a 19-year-old German Youtube activist who had been invited by the Heartland Institute to speak about "climate realism" was billed as "the anti-Greta Thunberg." During a Q and A session, Seibt told Insider that she was "absolutely" still a fan of far-right YouTuber Stefan Molyneux. She also argued that an extended statement where Molyneux expressed sympathy for white nationalism had been "taken out of context." CPAC attendees feel like they've been victimized by "the left," and so has Trump
Most of the CPAC attendees Insider spoke with said they feel like they're under a constant state of unfair attacks from "the left," just like President Trump. Jeffrey Lord, a Trump supporter and former CNN contributor, told Insider, "I just think people are seriously enthusiastic about the president on top of which they're also angry at the way he's been treated." At CPAC Central, the event's main gathering hall, vendors sold T-shirts and hats emblazoned with phrases like "Freethinkers Only," "Kiss Me I'm a Capitalist," and "This is Trump Country: Where on a Quiet Night You Can Hear a Snowflake Melting." Elizabeth Najjar, an 18-year-old student at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, told Insider that administrators at her Virginia high school had called her parents to compel her to take down a pro-Second Amendment video she had posted to her private Facebook account. She also said she had been spat upon at her school because of her political views. Najjar said she doesn't care for "CNN and MSNBC fake news." Instead she likes to get her information "from a broad amount of sources," including Fox News, the pro-Trump One America Network (OANN), and conservative YouTubers like Ben Shapiro — whose show her family will sometimes watch together after family dinners. Steve Merczynski, a 53-year-old from New York, and his partner Ana Villalobos, a native of El Salvador, are proprietors of an embroidery business. They came to CPAC to show off their MAGA-friendly hammocks. Mercyznski told Insider he just wanted to make "a present for Trump. After all that hell he was getting from the media and the Democrats and impeachment. I thought, let me make a nice hammock for him." He added that he sometimes disagrees with Trump but "I feel he gets so much abuse, I'm not gonna add to it because it's not fair. I want to see equal treatment on the other side. Cause no one's perfect." Mercyznski says he has voted for both parties in his life and went to the famously liberal Oberlin College. Still, Mercyznski added, he "hates political correctness" and found in Trump "a tough guy with a sense of humor." Villalobos told Insider that prior to 2016 she had exclusively voted Democratic since becoming a US citizen. But she went for Trump in 2016 because she agreed with his message that "the Clintons took all the jobs so way to China." She added that she wasn't offended at all by Trump's 2015 campaign launching speech where he disparaged Mexicans. Insider spotted Joyce Michaels, a 57-year-old from New York, wandering through the "CPAC Central" vendor area late Friday wearing a Project Veritas-branded hat reading: "Epstein Coverup." Michaels told Insider that "most thinking people" believe Jeffrey Epstein's death was a murder and not a suicide. (There is no evidence that Epstein's death was anything other than a suicide, despite conspiracy theories involving the Democratic Clinton family signal-boosted by President Trump himself.) She added that "it seems to have international connections" and "the Clintons have their hands in everything. We all know that." "Cancelled" conservatives held their own shadow conference, and some were thrown out of CPAC
For all the complaints at CPAC about being "silenced" by "the left," there were some conservative voices who felt even more aggrieved. At a private event Wednesday night titled "Emergency Save the First Amendment Summit" held at a hotel in Washington, DC, several "cancelled" conservatives spoke before a group of about 80 attendees. Most of the speakers had either been kicked off of major tech platforms, and some were explicitly banned from attending CPAC. Emceed by InfoWars' conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the speakers included white nationalist "Groyper" leader Nick Fuentes, Vice and "Proud Boys" co-founder Gavin McInnes, and current Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio. Ex-Breitbart writer Lee Stranahan also spoke at the event, giving a call-and-response speech where he repeatedly exhorted the audience to shout the name of the alleged Ukraine whistleblower. Speakers railed against "mainstream" conservatives like Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk, repeated the baseless conspiracy theories about Jeffrey Epstein's suicide, and lamented "globalist" elements that they see as hell-bent on destroying Western civilization. McInnes was kicked out of CPAC the next day after being accused of threatening to assault an attendee. He denied the accusation. CPAC's undercard events served up "culture war victim" read meat The conservatives-as-victims-of-the-left narrative continued late into Friday with a breakout panel, "Because Trump: How the Left Justifies Acts of Violence." Controversial journalist Andy Ngo said at the panel "what we are seeing is the normalization of political violence, that's being encouraged not just by media but by politicians, leaders, people who really should know better." Scott Presler, a millennial Republican activist who made a name for himself in conservative circles for picking up trash in places like San Francsico and Baltimore and putting videos of it online, also spoke on the panel. He said "the left wants to intimidate, bully and silence us," but he added, "I'm not going to let threats of domestic terrorism stop us." Rob O'Donnell of the police advocacy non-profit group "Brothers Before Others," warned that Trump supporters soon wouldn't be able to "go to a grocery store wearing a red hat because somebody doesn't like that red hat." O'Donnell argued that the only solution to such an ominous future was to allow police to use more aggressive force. Kayla Epstein contributed reporting.
Read more: Conservatives at CPAC are obsessed with Bernie Sanders, calling him a 'Marxist' who 'could win' the election 'The anti-Greta' climate activist Naomi Seibt says she's 'absolutely' a fan of far-right podcaster Stefan Molyneux CPAC staged a play based on ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page's anti-Trump texts The authors of 'A Very Stable Genius' discuss Trump's rage, ignorance, and the unprecedented dysfunction of his White House SEE ALSO: 'The anti-Greta' climate activist Naomi Seibt says she's 'absolutely' a fan of far-right podcaster Stefan Molyneux Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
More like this (3)
Trump won't self-quarantine despite potential coronavirus exposure from Bolsonaro aide that caused 2 Republican senators to isolate
President Donald Trump has not been tested for coronavirus and is not in self-quarantine despite coming...President Donald Trump has not been tested for coronavirus and is not in self-quarantine despite coming into contact with a member of a Brazilian delegation that has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence "had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time." Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's press secretary, who Brazilian media reports has tested positive for the coronavirus, posted a picture on Instagram of himself standing directly beside Trump and Pence at the Mar-a-Lago club this past weekend. Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham did go into quarantine after potentially coming into contact with the group. Graham received a test for coronavirus. Several Republican members of Congress entered self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution after coming into contact with an infected individual at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February. Some of them subsequently had contact with Trump before learning of their potential exposure. Despite these possible exposures, Trump has so far not entered quarantine, or been tested. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump has not been tested for coronavirus and has not entered self-quarantine, even after Republican Senators who had similar exposure to a reported COVID-19 patient this weekend chose to take these protective measures. Trump was at his West Palm Beach club in Mar-a-Lago earlier this week along with a group that included several other administration officials, Republican politicians, Fox News personalities, and other conservatives, according to 1100 Pennsylvania, a watchdog blog dedicated to documenting possible conflicts of interest and high-profile comings and goings at Trump's properties. Also in attendance: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was in Florida accompanied by a delegation this week. His spokesman Fabio Wajngarten, who accompanied the foreign leader on the trip and was at Mar-a-Lago, later tested positive for COVID-19 according to Brazilian media and CNN. Earlier this week, Wajngarten posted a photo of himself side by side with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at Mar-a-Lago on Instagram. He sported a "Make Brazil Great Again" hat, a nod to the President's own statement accessory. “Make Brazil Great Again” @realdonaldtrump @mikepence @alvarogarnero 🇧🇷🇧🇷🇧🇷🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 A post shared by Fabio Wajngarten (@fabiowajngarten) on Mar 7, 2020 at 4:47pm PST on Mar 7, 2020 at 4:47pm PST White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement to Insider that "The White House is aware of public reports that a member of the Brazilian delegation's visit to Mar-a-Lago last weekend tested positive for COVID-19; confirmatory testing is pending," Despite concerns that Trump and Pence may have been subsequently exposed to the coronavirus by standing right next to Wajngarten, Grisham that they "had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time." However some of Trump's allies in Congress who may have been exposed to contact with Brazil's delegation have taken precautions. Within hours of each other on Thursday, Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, announced they would voluntarily self-quarantine after they were also in proximity with the Brazilian delegation in Florida. Scott said he has not been tested after consulting with doctors, but Graham has said he is awaiting the results of a test out of a abundance of caution. Neither reported experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus. Scott said that he met with Bolsonaro in Miami on Monday, and "while I do not believe I interacted with the infected person, that individual was in the same room as me." My decision today to self-quarantine is out of an abundance of caution. My priority is the health and safety of all Americans and I will continue working on my plan to combat the virus and protect American families. Read my statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/1rVq2SK6RY — Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) March 12, 2020 Graham was at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, and while he had "no recollection of direct contact" with Bolsonaro or his spokesman, he was entering self-quarantine regardless. Statement from the Office of Senator Lindsey Graham pic.twitter.com/XyyZ9dnpTe — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) March 12, 2020 Senator Marco Rubio also reportedly shook Bolsonaro's hand in Florida this week, CNN's Manu Raju reported. But at the moment, Rubio said he would not enter quarantine or receive a coronavirus test because he did not have any interaction with the Bolsonaro spokesman who tested positive. Statement from Senator Rubio’s office: pic.twitter.com/rVxfaLJBPU — Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) March 12, 2020 This isn't the first time Trump may have risked exposure to people who came into contact with a coronavirus patient. Several Republican members of Congress voluntarily went into quarantine this week after encountering a person at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) who later tested positive. At least two of those congressmen, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, had contact with Trump after their potential exposure. Collins shook Trump's hand and accompanied him on a visit to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta last Friday, while Gaetz hitched a ride on Air Force One on Monday before learning while still on the plane that he had contact with the CPAC attendee. Neither reported symptoms but both voluntarily self-quarantined.SEE ALSO: Here are all the members of Congress who have self-quarantined or closed their office because of coronavirus SEE ALSO: White House says Trump and Pence don't need to be tested for coronavirus because they had 'almost no interactions' with Brazilian official who tested positive Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
Fox News is downplaying the coronavirus even though its older audience is more vulnerable to the virus
Some of the most prominent right-wing media personalities are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan...Some of the most prominent right-wing media personalities are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and accusing Democrats of exaggerating the crisis to score political points. The Fox News hosts' comments echo the White House's talking points and the president accused Democrats and the media of intentionally "panicking" the stock market about the virus to undermine him. But Fox's message is particularly dangerous for its viewers, who skew older and are thus more vulnerable to the effects of the virus, which US health officials say is poised to spread across the US. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Some of President Donald Trump's most vocal supporters in right-wing media are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and accusing Democrats of overstating the crisis to score political points. Sean Hannity, whose prime-time program is the most watched on Fox News, on Thursday argued that the virus sweeping the globe hasn't yet killed any Americans, and compared it to the seasonal flu, which took 61,000 lives in the US in 2017-2018. (The reported death rate from the novel virus in China is much higher than that of the flu). Hannity added that Democrats actually want the virus to spread as a way to undermine President Donald Trump. "Many on the left are all but rooting for coronavirus to wreak havoc in the United States," Hannity told his more than 3 million viewers on Thursday night. "It's clear, the left's psychosis, their rage, is now reaching new depths of depravity ... These people are not well. Let's be honest here, they don't have good intentions." Fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham echoed that argument, focusing her prime time shows this week on attacking Democrats and the media over their response to the virus. "Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponize suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November," Ingraham announced on Wednesday. While some of Fox's daytime shows are covering the facts of the coronavirus epidemic, "The Five," among other daytime programs, framed their coverage on Friday through Trump's attacks on the media and brought a medical correspondent on who called the World Health Organization "alarmist." Democrats have sharply condemned Trump's response to the virus, calling his request for $2.5 billion in funding inadequate and "anemic," and his administration's announcement that a potential virus may not be affordable for many Americans "absolutely disgusting." This is how Fox News handles a growing public health crisis pic.twitter.com/FgY1J5u8W7 — Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) February 28, 2020 The Fox News hosts' comments echo the White House's talking points. Trump held a press briefing with government officials responsible for the coronavirus response on Wednesday night and downplayed the risk of the virus, insisting the US is "very, very ready for this, for anything." The president accused Democrats and the media of intentionally "panicking" the stock market, tweeting on Wednesday, "Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!" Trump has also argued that the coronavirus is only as threatening as the seasonal flu. The president also misleadingly claimed that the coronavirus will go away in April as temperatures rise. Fox News' target audience is more vulnerable to the coronavirus Fox News' message is getting through to the network's audience, some of whom gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland this week. But Fox News' viewers are more vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus than the average American, as they skew older. The virus is significantly more deadly for those over 50 years old, and even more so for even older people, according to a study of Chinese coronavirus patients. The media age of Fox's audience was 65 in 2018. Like many of the CPAC attendees interviewed by Insider on Thursday and Friday, Dianne Kozack, 69, and her daughter Lara, 26, believed Trump had the coronavirus response under control and that mainstream news organizations had blown the threat out of proportion. "I believe what Rush Limbaugh says, that it's under control," Dianne Kozack said. "I think President Trump's on top of it and, so far, there's nothing to panic about." Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio host, was criticized for telling listeners on Monday that "the coronavirus is the common cold." Rene Campbell, 57, said she doesn't "watch the media anymore," with the exception of Fox News, and news she finds on Facebook. "If you look at the big scheme of things, there's millions and millions of people in this world and I think right now in the United States there is one confirmed case," Campbell said. At the time Campbell spoke with Insider, there had been 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control. "Honestly, I'm not afraid of it," Campbell said. "I'm here, I don't have a mask on, I did buy masks because my son's freaking out. But I'm not. I don't see the need right now to panic." As Vice President Mike Pence, the administration's new point person on novel coronavirus, riled up the crowd in the Potomac Ballroom on Thursday, several CPAC attendees told Insider they weren't especially panicked about the coronavirus. Some, like Melinda Kirlkand, a stay-at-home-mom from Michigan, "don't think that much about it." "Personally it's a media driven panic that they want out there," said Lynn Straughan, who had come from Florida to attend CPAC. "If you actually see what's happening and listen to the mainstream media, MSNBC or CNN, they paint a dramatically different picture. One that is designed to put people into a certain type of panic." Straughan and her friends said they were protecting themselves as they normally would to combat the flu: washing their hands, wiping down airplane seats, and not touching their faces. Others insisted they were not worried, but acknowledged that they were currently attending a bustling and tightly-packed conference where many attendees had passed through airports around the country to attend. An aspiring right-wing podcaster who gave his name as Grizzly Joe said he was "not worried about it", but still bought "some masks a couple weeks ago in case it does get a little crazy." "I'm not talking about the crappy paper masks, I'm talking about nice real masks, nice real respirators," he told Insider.SEE ALSO: Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Laura Ingraham are denying the coronavirus risk in an attempt to protect Trump Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
CPAC staged a play based on ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page's anti-Trump texts
"FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former..."FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, opened CPAC on Thursday. During the 2016 election, Strzok and Page were having an affair, and exchanged texts critical about then-candidate Donald Trump. Trump and his allies have cited the texts as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won. Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The Conservative Political Action Conference's Thursday afternoon session kicked off with a staging of "FBI Lovebirds," a play based on the texts between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that have become something of an obsession to President Donald Trump and his supporters. The controversial messages came during the 2016 election, which Trump and his allies have cited as evidence of a "Deep State" conspiracy to keep him from winning the election, or maintaining the presidency after he won. Strzok and Page were having an affair and exchanged messages that were critical of Trump. Among the most controversial of the texts was Strzok's response to Page's query asking if Trump could be elected. To which Strzok replied, "No, we'll stop it." Strzok later said the remark was "off the cuff" in a moment of anger at Trump over his insulting of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan's bereaved parents. Khan's father gave a stirring speech at that year's Democratic National Convention, condemning Trump's proposed "Muslim ban." During the texts with Strzok, Page also said, Hillary Clinton "just has to win now," and "This man cannot be president." The texts were made public in December 2017, and resulted in both Strzok and Page being removed from their posts as part of then-special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Strzok was eventually fired by the FBI, while Page left her position in May 2018. Page has since sued the FBI and the Justice Department for what she says was an invasion of her privacy. At a rally in October 2019, Trump mocked Page by performing a fake orgasm from the stage at a rally in Minneapolis. Strzok and Page were played by actors who made their names in the early 90s as "Superman" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s ABC show "Lois and Clark," played Stzok, while Kristy Swanson, best known for playing the titular character in the original 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" film, performed as Page. Two other actors, Bruce Nozick and Tommy Gissendanner, played composites of members of Congress who later questioned Strzok in a July 2018 congressional hearing. Both Cain and Swanson hammed it up, playing up the "smug DC elite" factor, as well as the inherent absurdity of two grown adults in national law enforcement positions reading their candid text messages allowed. The actors read from scripts with long pauses between each others "texts." The CPAC crowd seemed to enjoy the novelty of the actors announcing their emoticons ("smiley face," "wink"), acronyms (OMG) and multiple exclamation marks as part of the dialogue. But after some smatterings of applause and laughter, the energy in the room flagged, perhaps because the audience expected more steamy content and explicit plotting against Trump than the texts actually provide. One line in particular that received a lot of applause was Strzok's text reading: "Just went into a Southern Virginia Wal-Mart, I can smell the Trump support." During a Q and A session following the performance, Cain was asked how he could inhabit Strzok so well. Cain, like Swanson a vocal conservative, replied, "Well, I've played Scott Peterson." The actors and creators also revealed they had visited with President Trump at the White House today, with Cain adding that he thought Trump had performed better than they had — an apparent reference to the fake orgasm the president used to mock Page last year. Cain added that he thinks Strzok and Page thought they were doing something that was "heroic" and "in the best interests of the country," though Cain added it was "unconstitutional." Swanson told an audience member that unlike Strzok and Page, the heroes that she and Cain previously played "weren't arrogant." Writer and director Phelim McAleer, who produced the documentaries' "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer" and "FrackNation," wrote and directed the play. He told Insider after the performance, "It's a tragic love story was an international political drama, not just on top of it but running through it as well. And you've got Donald Trump." McAleer says he's looking to raise funds to stage the play for a few weeks in New York. Read more: The authors of 'A Very Stable Genius' discuss Trump's rage, ignorance, and the unprecedented dysfunction of his White House The authors of a new Trump-world book 'Sinking in the Swamp' discuss the 'stupidity' of the current political era Trump doesn't really respect members of the military. He uses them as props. Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump's shared love of executive power makes them strongman soulmates SEE ALSO: Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump's shared love of executive power makes them strongman soulmates Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment