A conference for Trump supporters that made headlines for showcasing a crude video depicting President Donald Trump mass-murdering his enemies was also rife with religious bigotry that often targeted Muslims.
The American Priority Festival and Conference was hosted last week at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort, and organizers billed top pro-Trump speakers in its lineup. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr., former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida addressed the conference, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was scheduled to speak but did not. Mixed among the crowd were members of the Proud Boys hate group, believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and pockets of wealthy donors.
Organizers and attendees insisted that the environment of the conference was one of love and tolerance, but inside, a violent video was featured in a side room and attendees chanted for war. (Since the New York Times report, organizers of the event condemned the video, and speakers told WYNC their violent rhetoric was metaphoric.) Additionally, many speakers spoke out against members of the Muslim faith, and one speaker urged Trump to “name the enemy”—the enemy, in his mind, being the totality of Islam.
On Friday, NewsmaxTV host John Cardillo hosted a panel that was ostensibly about U.S. national security but often veered into complaints against social media and mass media. Near the end of the panel discussion, Jonathan Gilliam, a former Navy SEAL and FBI agent, offered his take on the Trump administration’s abandonment of the Kurds in northern Syria. Gilliam defended Trump’s move in Syria, but criticized Trump for not declaring all Islam as a threat to America.
“What’s happening in Syria is it’s a political maneuver. It’s a political war. It’s a political movement of money. And there is no strategic plan,” Gilliam said. “I will give Trump one criticism, because that’s the difference between conservatives and liberals—I’m not a blind robot. I love this president, but he needs to name the enemy—it’s not ‘radical Islam,’ it’s Islam. I hate to say it, it’s fundamental Islam that needs to be named.”
The crowd applauded Gilliam’s Islamophobic remark, and a few attendees hollered in agreement. Oddly enough, Gilliam introduced a “Religious Freedom” panel the next day that was comprised of Islamic reformers who seemed to validate the audience’s pre-held beliefs in opposition to the Muslim faith, including Mohamad Tawhidi, who lends his platform to right-wing anti-Muslim groups and the broader far-right. Tawhidi joked to the crowd, “Greetings, infidels,” and the crowd fell mostly silent. He made a similar joke about wanting to convert the entire crowd to Islam, which also fell flat. However, the crowd did cheer one panelist when he declared he was a conservative who voted for Trump.
On Friday morning, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer complained from the main stage that she had been suspended from using many major social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, for posting hateful content. Loomer repeated false claims that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a U.S. Muslim civil rights group, was responsible for her Twitter suspension, and she smeared Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar with false claims that Omar is “pro-Sharia” and “anti-Jewish,” to which the audience applauded. Loomer alleged that the “communist” conspiracy she believes was responsible for her social media bans was a “civil rights violation” akin to the lead up to the Holocaust.
Omar was also the subject of another smear, this one meant to be humorous, from a pro-Trump “comedian” on Thursday night. Joe Dan Gorman played a roughly 10-minute video that included a scene in which Omar was smeared and called vulgar names. As RWW’s Kristen Doerer reported yesterday:
In one scene, the video labeled four congresswomen of color, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, “hate inc,” while the song “Hit the Road Jack” played in the background. The video singled out Omar and accused her of tax fraud, immigration fraud, campaign finance fraud, marriage fraud—there is debunked claim in right circles that Omar married her brother—and it labeled her a “Ho” and an “Overall bitch.”