The trio of pro-Trump singers calling themselves the Deplorable Choir arrived at a pool party at the Trump National Doral Miami in matching red “Keep America Great” hats and cowboy boots. Among the largely middle-aged crowd already in attendance was a woman in a red bikini with a Trump pin fastened to her top posing with a Donald Trump 2020 sign, a large man in a “Bikers for Trump” jacket excitedly talking with other attendees, and couples seated on the poolside chairs sipping cocktails while the pro-Trump DJ duo “Milk N’ Cooks” mixed music in the background.
The pool party was part of the American Priority Festival and Conference, a pro-Trump, millennial-focused alternative to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, hosted by American Priority over three days at the Trump resort. The event featured GOP speakers powerful among the Trump/GOP base, including Donald Trump Jr. and Sarah Huckabee Sanders—on the same stage as such fringe figures as Laura Loomer and Wayne Allyn Root. Thursday’s events seemed largely to showcase the new right’s culture: their music and comedy, their acceptance of the gay, black, and Latino members within their ranks, and their coalitions across right-wing movements. The result was a mix of nationalism and Trump worship that often plunged into the mean-spirited rhetoric used by Trump himself, despite claims from some on the stage that the new Republican Party was the party of love.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the morning began with a golf tournament at what is billed as a golf resort, the words TRUMP DORAL displayed boldly on the lawn in front of a gigantic American flag and the imposing clubhouse lined with Corinthian columns. Proceeds from the tournament went to the “#WalkAway” movement, which encourages people to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party.
At the pool party later that day, Ricky Rebel, a singer-songwriter known for being unapologetically both pro-Trump and gay, took the mic. He began with his back to the audience, moving his leg, in tight, red velvet pants, like Michael Jackson, before spinning around, whipping his bleached blonde hair, and commencing to sing out of tune. His second song, he said, was for “all the people who listen to fake news.”
“The sheep, the sheep, they’re all fucking sheep,” he sang to a catchy tune, as more people wearing MAGA hats and American-flag garb came around the stage to record videos of his performance.
As people filtered into the pool party, it quickly became a who’s who of the modern pro-Trump right. In between rain showers, Ricky Rebel spoke with Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys hate group, while a mother pointed out Scott Presler, a right-wing activist known for organizing a trash pickup in Baltimore days after Trump called the city a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” to her teenage daughter.
The sky unleashed a Florida downpour, and pool-goers huddled under umbrellas striking up conversations in close corridors. When the sky cleared, Simona Papadopoulos, wife of former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos—who went to federal prison for making false statements to FBI agents about the timing of his contact with Russian intermediaries in 2016—held a swimsuit fashion show. Simona and two other models strutted out on a poolside black carpet in a series of colorful, skimpy bikinis and one-pieces; the show ended with Simona donning an American flag one-piece in—her homage to the nation.
Later that evening, after speeches by American Priority President Alex Phillips, former Florida Senate president Mike Hardipipolos (who bemoaned “college kids think socialism is the answer”), and a fiery sermon by Pastor Mark Burns (in which he pledged allegiance to the flag and garnered a standing ovation), a series of pro-Trump comedians took the stage.
Joe Dan Gorman, a “comedian” known for his pro-Trump videos on his blog “Intellectual Froglegs”—which he described as “high-quality, lowbrow humor for deplorables with discriminating tastes”—played a roughly 10-minute video for the crowd. The video used footage from the 2006 movie “Idiocracy,” with the narrator stating, “Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent, but as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction.” The next scene was of a transgender woman, followed by a video of white supremacist Richard Spencer being punched. Later in the video, President Trump walks on the White House lawn with Batman’s shadow behind him, causing the crowd to clap and holler.
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 with the words,“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.”
Unlike the ultimately news-making video played at the conference in a side room on a loop with other videos—which depicted Trump massacring his political enemies, as first reported by The New York Times—Gorman’s video was displayed on the main stage’s massive screen. Phillips, the conference organizer, attempted to distance American Priority from the massacre video by issuing a statement noting its place side-room placement and claiming it ran without approval by the group.
But since Gorman’s video calling Omar a “Ho” and “Overall bitch” was shown on the main stage, it is unlikely AMPFest staff did not review it and sanction it. In his statement, Phillips bemoaned the fact that the Times did not deign to report on the officially-sanctioned aspect of the conference. But though the conference was purportedly designed to focus on the First Amendment, our reporter Jared Holt was barred from attending, and the AMP website stated in the days leading up to and during the conference that, “Media is by Invite only.”
After his video aired, Gorman finally took the stage and expressed dismay at the right’s lack of entertainment options. “We need entertainment programming,” he said, adding that radio wasn’t enough. It was a sentiment shared by conservative comedian Evan Sayet, a resident of Los Angeles, who claimed, “We’re going to take back the entertainment capital of the world right here, right now.”
Terrence Williams, introduced as “the president’s favorite comedian on the internet,” received a standing ovation as he took the stage. Williams, who is African American, joked that he found out he was an uncle that morning—”an Uncle Tom,” he said—and talked about how hard it was for him when he came out as a conservative. “Terrence, you’re kicked out of the black community. Kicked out the black community? Well, look at me,” he said. “What is the disadvantage?”
The night ended with actor Robert Davi singing Frank Sinatra songs, joined on stage by Roger Stone, an ending to the evening that targeted an older age group.
And after three days of pro-Trump, conspiracy-theory peddling, anti-media talk, the weekend ended with a celebratory after-party in the Trump Doral ballroom. In the hallway to the ballroom, attendees posed in a photo booth, and in the ballroom, Bikers for Trump showcased a personalized chopper featuring President Trump’s face and the American flag.
The Deplorable Choir took the stage during the dinner, dancing and singing to their country song “American Made.”
“Cause we’re American brave, home of the brave. We won’t apologize, because we’re American great,” they sang. A conference-goer noted that they were actually pretty good, and walked toward the stage to record a video.
Ricky Rebel entertains the Trump Doral crowd with his MAGA-hit, “Sheep.”