Despite disinviting far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference—an annual conservative gathering hosted by the American Conservative Union which starts tomorrow—still plans to welcome a variety of far-right extremists and wild conspiracy theorists. And that’s not even counting President Trump.
CPAC has been in the news the past few days after asking Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart known for his noxious rhetoric, to be the conference’s keynote speaker, lauding his invitation as a victory for the freedom of speech and a jab against political correctness. When several outlets pointed out that Yiannopoulos has defended pedophilia in the past, Matt Schlepp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, initially defended the decision to host Yiannopoulos as a way to stand up for the First Amendment, but later withdrew the invitation, citing the “evils of sexual abuse of children.”
Yiannopoulos, for his part, has denied supporting pedophilia.
Even without Yiannopoulos, CPAC is still set to bring together Republican elected officials with the conservative movement’s far-right fringe. Here are just five other extremist speakers who will address CPAC this week:
Conservative author Trevor Loudon is convinced that the “Marxist” and “completely anti-American” Barack Obama was part of a grand Communist conspiracy against America, claiming he has “been mentored and guided by hardcore communists, anti-American Islamic radicals and people who despise the United States Constitution” who have trained him “from the cradle to achieve some position of power.”
“I think Barack Obama does love his country, but he does it in the same way that Adolf Hitler loved Germany or Joseph Stalin loved Russia, you know, he wants to transform it into a new vision,” Loudon said during a 2015 radio interview. “Obama has proven time and time again that he wants to transform America into a socialist state, he wants to reduce America’s power in the world and make it more vulnerable to its enemies. He’s destroying America’s nuclear capabilities, he’s destroying America’s military and that may cost millions of American lives.”
In fact, Loudon believes that Marxists have infiltrated everything from churches to Islamic groups to the Republican Party. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Loudon is also a birther who doubts that Obama is a U.S. citizen.
He is slated to speak at a CPAC panel called, “When Did WWIII Begin? Part A: Threats at Home,” moderated by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Speaking on the same panel is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who despite being roundly criticized for his handling of the 2012 Sikh Temple shooting and multiple deaths at his prisons, has emerged as a conservative icon.
As we’ve reported, “Clarke has made a name for himself as a Fox News pundit and avid supporter of the gun lobby, using his platform in the media to attack Black Lives Matter, which he describes as a lawless, ‘subversive’ and potentially ISIS-linked group composed of ‘black slime’ that must be ‘eradicated,’ and to champion the cause of anti-government militants, whom he praises as patriots.”
Clarke has also lashed out at Obama as a “heartless, soulless bastard,” likened Beyoncé to a member of the Ku Klux Klan and said that the Great Seal of the United States should be amended to include a semi-automatic rifle.
At a Trump victory rally, he urged conservatives to have their “pitchforks and torches ready” to help the president “push back” against the “subversive” progressive movement, and has been busy tweeting following the election that anti-Trump protests “must be quelled.”
At the same time, Clarke said conservatives should respond to the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling by starting “a revolution” with “pitchforks and torches” to “get this country back,” or otherwise, the country may fall into civil war over the issue. He has similarly called for a literal revolution, “the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison,” to protest the proposed federal assault weapons ban.
Clarke has also built close ties with the extremist Oath Keepers militia group and an organization of sheriffs with radical anti-government views.
Clare Lopez, who is also joining Thomas, Loudon and Clarke on CPAC’s “Threats at Home” panel, advised Sen. Ted Cruz on security issues and was reportedly in the running for a national security post in the Trump administration.
As we reported at the time, Lopez, the Center for Security Policy’s Vice President for Research and Analysis, has praised figures like Joseph McCarthy and promoted several conspiracy theories:
Lopez has claimed that President Obama “switched sides in the war on terror” and warned of the “infiltration” of the Obama administration by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Like many anti-Muslim activists, Lopez sees the fight against radical Islam as an extension of the fight against communism, advocating for broad-based efforts to root out what she sees as the pervasive influence of subversives in government. In a radio interview earlier this year, Lopez said that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was “spot on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration” of communists in government, so “we have precedent for this where we were not fully aware of the infiltration occurring at the time.”
Responding to protests against Trump’s candidacy that turned violent this summer, Lopez linked the protests to a “witch’s brew” of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Black Lives Matter activists and a “conglomeration of anarchists, communists, socialists, progressivists, leftists of all sorts, Occupy, Bill Ayers types,” all seeking to bring down “the American political system.” She also warned of “a coordinated effort to involve Muslims into the electoral process,” an effort that she said was being “directed by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Lopez has also claimed that while those in “bona fide religions” such as Christians, Hindus and Jews “become better people” when they “follow their doctrines,” “when Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.”
Center for Security Policy head Frank Gaffney is so extreme that he was actually banned by CPAC in 2011 for making baseless claims that two American Conservative Union board members, one Muslim and the other married to a Muslim woman, are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Former ACU chairman David Keene last year wrote a Washington Times column deriding Gaffney as a “conspiracy nut” who “has managed to convince himself that anyone with whom he disagrees is not just wrong but an agent of one conspiracy or another.”
Nonetheless, Gaffney is set to appear at CPAC this year, although he hasn’t changed much from his days since he was a CPAC persona non grata.
Gaffney believes that everyone from U2 singer Bono to Chris Christie is aiding an Islamist plot to take over America and install Sharia law, warning that the Muslim Brotherhood has completely infiltrated the government, as demonstrated by the logo of the Missile Defense Agency.
He has also been active in pushing the birther conspiracy theory and discriminatory policies like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, even making common cause with white nationalist and Alt-Right figure Jared Taylor over their shared contempt for immigrants and refugees (although he ultimately distanced himself from Taylor once he was called out on it).
White House strategist Steve Bannon plans to sit down for an on-stage interview with Matt Schlapp, the head of the ACU, despite Schlapp’s insistence that he wants to distance conservatives from the bigoted Alt-Right.
Bannon, however, has lauded the Alt-Right as a “populist” and “nationalist” ideology that is bringing young people into the conservative movement, boasting that he helped turn Breitbart into “the platform for the alt-right.”
Former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro commented that “under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart openly embraced the white supremacist Alt-Right,” noting that it published Yiannopoulos’s approving description of the Alt-Right as a natural resurgence of white tribal identity.
Breitbart has become an outlet devoted to reporting on “black crime” and supposed violence carried out by refugees, and Bannon himself has reached out to European neofascists, alluded to a coming civilizational clash between the West and Islam, stoked fears that the U.S. could soon turn into an Islamist state and pointed to the book “The Camp of Saints,” a favorite among white supremacists, to denounce the “Muslim invasion of Europe.”
With such speakers, it is hard to see how disinviting Yiannopoulos can absolve CPAC of embracing the far Right’s worst elements.