CPAC denies report Nazis, white supremacists openly attended its annual summit

NBC News claims Conservative Political Action Conference, where Trump gave keynote speech, sees participants peddle far-right, racist ideology

Handbags are for sale at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Handbags are for sale at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Racist extremists and those touting Nazi ideology openly attended the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, in what appeared to reflect a more accepting stance by organizers of the annual event than in previous years, NBC News reported Saturday.

CPAC denied the report, calling it “false, misleading, and grossly manipulative.”

“CPAC has made it absolutely clear that we stand with Israel and the Jewish people… and against the hatred of Jews. Our board and international partners unanimously passed a resolution this week reiterating that strong, clear, and unequivocal position. We hosted a special event at CPAC in celebration of and solidarity with Israel, and we are leading an ongoing initiative as an organization supporting Israel.”

NBC said some of the well-known extremists sported official CPAC badges and discussed their views with other attendees at the event in the Gaylord Convention Center in Maryland, where front-running Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump addressed the gathering.

In the past extreme racists have been kicked out of the event as it worked to distance itself from the fringes of the conservative moments, the report said, noting that white supremacist Nick Fuentes is among those who have been ejected in previous years.

One of those who participated in the CPAC 2024 was Ryan Sanchez, a past figure in the Nazi Rise Above Movement, the report said, who took photos of himself as he sported an official badge and bragged of his ties to Fuentes.

According to the network, other attendees who were with Sanchez openly used the N-word. It noted there was no obvious pushback against those who peddled racist conspiracy theories.

One group reportedly identifying themselves as national socialists talked about “race science” and held discussions with, among others, figures from Turning Point USA, which advocates conservative politics in high schools and on college campuses.

Republican presidential candidate former US president Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 24, 2024. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Greg Conte, a member of the national socialists group who was at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, said his organization specifically wanted to talk with media at CPAC and that its members were prepared to be removed from the conference if organizers were alerted to their presence.

According to the report, the group’s members remained though it was unclear whether organizers were aware of their activities.

CPAC has in the past worked to distance itself from the far-right extremes of the conservative movement in the US, and embraced debate around Trump and moderates, the report noted.

In its response, CPAC said: “When we come across someone at CPAC peddling any kind of antisemitism, we deal with them immediately. Knowing this, NBC weaved together lies and fabrications to create a false perception, and we won’t stand by idly while NBC engages in willful misinformation.”

NBC said the recent conference frustrated some attendees with its focus on Trump and his supporters.

Addressing the conference, conservative personality Jack Posobiec urged an end to democracy and its replacement with a Christian-focused government, though he later claimed he was being partly satirical.

Elsewhere at the conference, a pinball machine made light of the 2021 assault on the US Capitol. “J6 Insurrection” — an “educational documentary game” — was one of the hottest attractions.

An electronic pinball game from Patriot Dawg Games based on the January 6th Capital riot is displayed during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 22, 2024. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The game could be played in several modes with names such as “Fake News,” “Political Prisoners” and “Stop the Steal” that dovetail with the right-wing conspiracy theory that the rioters were set up by the Democratic “Deep State.”

“The intent of this was to trigger people, I guess, and it definitely did that,” said Jon Linowes, a Trump-supporting software developer who came up with the concept.

Billed as the “largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world,” this year’s CPAC comes eight months before the presidential election, with Trump vowing “retribution” against political opponents if he is reelected.

Once a showcase of robust ideas competing for primacy in the conservative movement, the conference has become a demonstration of the ideological transition that Republicans have been through to redraw the party in Trump’s image.

In his speech Saturday, the former US president cast November’s presidential election as “judgment day” and declared himself a “proud political dissident.”

Trump painted an apocalyptic vision of the future if US President Joe Biden wins a second term as the two prepare for an expected rematch election.

“For hardworking Americans, Nov. 5 will be our new liberation day. But for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government, it will be judgment day,” he said to loud applause. “When we win, the curtain closes on their corrupt reign and the sun rises on a bright new future for America.”

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