The Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of right-wing evangelical Christians, will convene this Friday in Washington, D.C., amid the rancor of an impeachment inquiry of a U.S. president the religious right has come to see as its very own. By the time Donald J. Trump takes the podium on Saturday, the audience will have had its sense of grievance primed by a roster of speakers who are unabashed fans of the embattled occupant of the Oval Office. (Originally slated to appear on Saturday morning, Trump has been rescheduled to speak at the evening gala dinner.)
The Values Voter Summit is produced and hosted by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, a group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT organization. Other targets of FRC’s contempt include—but are not limited to—Muslims, union activists, feminists and environmentalists, as well as liberals and progressives in general.
Here’s a glance at some of the featured speakers.
The conference will kick off with remarks from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, and one of Trump’s attack dogs in the administration’s fight against the impeachment inquiry being led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Meadows recently appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” to advance the Trump administration’s unsubstantiated counterclaim that Hillary Clinton engaged the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign. After registering his agreement with a Trump tweet that declared the inquiry to be an attempted coup, Meadows told host Sean Hannity that Democrats “are creating an obstruction trap to try to hold this president on impeachable offenses and we have go to call them out on it.”
A former deputy assistant to the president who is described by Splinter’s Rebecca Fishbein as “Nazi-adjacent,” Gorka—now a Fox News contributor—is just back from a European junket with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently whisked the vitriolic pundit away with him to Rome on the State Department’s plane. (Italy is suddenly a favorite destination for Trump’s cabinet secretaries; Attorney General William Barr was there late last month in his quest to “investigate” a conspiracy theory that, in the unlikely event it should be proven, would implicate the Central Intelligence Agency in trying to throw the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton.)
Gorka was pushed from the White House after appearing at a gala wearing a pin indicating his membership in Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group that allied with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II.
What would Trump be without Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Once scorned by the religious right, McConnell has been welcomed back to the fold for his relentless work in confirming a record number of the most right-wing, reactionary judges to ever grace the federal bench. And McConnell will never let them forget it. At this year’s Road to Majority conference, he bragged about using his power to slow-walk Obama nominees so that Trump would have lots of vacancies to fill. And he has made it clear that he will happily abandon his “election-year” justification for blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland; if there’s a vacancy in 2020, McConnell says, he’ll help Trump fill it.
McConnell told attendees of last year’s Values Voter Summit that his decision to block Garland’s nomination was “the most consequential action of my entire career” and pledged that “we’re going to transform the federal judiciary for a generation.” In spite of all that, folks at the American Family Association were not joining in the cheers for McConnell at last year’s Values Voter Summit because they were still mad about his opposition to Roy Moore’s Senate bid.
Gabriel runs the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, declared in 2017 that the election of Donald Trump was essential to the survival of Western civilization. She claimed last year that “over 90 percent of mosques in America are preaching radical Islamic ideology against our democracy and the overturn of our government, all paid for and funded by the Saudis.” She has also attacked Gold Star father Khizr Khan, saying that a practicing Muslim cannot abide by the U.S. Constitution; using the same reasoning, she has urged activists to resist Muslims running for public office. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this record of promoting religious bigotry, Gabriel was able to get Sen. Ted Cruz and other members of Congress to address her group last year. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is now awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI, has served on ACT! for America’s board of advisers.
Gabriel is scheduled to appear on the VVS main stage on Saturday morning, which could be a bit awkward given that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago reportedly cancelled the group’s Nov. 7 gala—which was supposed to feature Michelle Malkin as the keynoter—after the Miami Herald wrote about the event. At last year’s VVS, Gabriel told attendees, “We are at war against the radical leftist element in our country that has declared war on us.”
Prager runs a right-wing propaganda production company that calls itself a “university.” Some of Prager’s frequently-watched “explainer” videos teach demonstrably false history, such as the one cited by right-wing activist Candace Owens to justify her claim that the Republican Party’s racist “Southern strategy” was a hoax rather than a well-documented historical reality.
Prager is not subtle. When Keith Ellison was elected the first Muslim member of Congress, Prager argued that Ellison should not be allowed to use a Quran rather than a Bible for his ceremonial swearing-in. Prager also took part in the dishonest right-wing media campaign that followed Easter bombings in Sri Lanka this year, claiming, “The Left won’t allow itself to acknowledge anti-Christian terrorism.” Last year, he compared American conservatives’ fear of persecution at the hands of intolerant liberals to the experience of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Also last year, Prager was touted as a speaker at events organized by Christian nationalist David Lane to get conservative evangelical pastors more involved in politics. Prager U receives major funding from a pair of religious-right fracking billionaire brothers, Dan and Farris Wilks, who have also funded Lane’s work.
This author and pundit became a religious right folk hero when he publicly questioned then-President Barack Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast. In 2016 he said the election was as critical a turning point as the American Revolution or Civil War. Last year he was honored by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, which has been designated an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and told Gaffney, “I cannot ever thank you enough for all you’ve been doing.” Metaxas hosts a parade of right-wing characters on his radio show. In January, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi was a guest, and Corsi and Metaxas agreed that if people like the prosecutors who are working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller had their way, they’d ban the teaching of the Bible. In March, he and “prophet” Lance Wallnau wallowed in their admiration for Trump. Metaxas has suggested that God allows the “evil” of mass murders so that Americans “will return to Him in prayer & repentance.”
The former congresswoman from Minnesota, a religious-right favorite, has distinguished herself in the Trump years by repeated declaring the foul-mouthed, philanderer who occupies the Oval Office to be God’s anointed, often at gatherings of charismatic Christians who have designated themselves as apostles and prophets.
At the last year’s Values Voter Summit, Bachmann, who holds an unofficial designation as “pastor to the United Nations,” declared that God heard the prayers of conservative Christians in 2016 and, as a result, America has been living in “an unparalleled golden time” for two years under President Trump. In a July radio appearance, Bachmann pronounced Trump “the most biblical president ever.”
Last year, Bachmann teamed with former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon to promote the successful candidacy of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election. Bolsonaro, who has said that he’d rather have a dead son than a gay son, has recently endured the world’s scorn for allowing the Amazon rainforest to burn in uncontrolled fires.
A longtime right-wing pundit and short-time president of the National Rifle Association, North transformed the infamy he earned by his days of testimony in congressional hearings on the Iran-Contra scandal into stardom in conservative media, hosting a radio talk show since the 1990s.
The scandal centered on the Reagan administration’s secret shipment of arms to Iran—missile sales that were forbidden by U.S. law. The arms sales were made for the purpose of freeing U.S. hostages who were held in Lebanon by the Iran-aligned Hezbollah. North, then a lieutenant colonel in the Marines and an adviser to the National Security Council, was involved in funneling the profits from those arms transactions to the Contras in Nicaragua, a counter-revolutionary force notorious for its human-rights violations to which Congress had forbidden aid.
In 2017, North was appointed NRA president but lasted less than a year, losing a power struggle with the group’s powerful executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, who reportedly has Trump’s ear. Should Trump turn his ear to North, however, he might get some helpful pointers in how to be lauded as a hero for subverting the Constitution.