NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — In 2019, CPAC seems to have gone out of its way to put on a drab, non-controversial conservative show.
There was none of the drama of 2017, when far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos was disinvited just days before the event after a video of him condoning pedophilia emerged, and when neo-Nazi Richard Spencer roamed the CPAC halls rubbing shoulders with younger attendees.
This year, by contrast, a collection of white nationalists, far-right grifters and conspiracy theorists were kept at an arms’ length and mostly had to be content with roaming the Gaylord Hotel outside of the convention. Many were initially denied passes, but managed to wangle their way inside, although they had to be content themselves with posting about CPAC on Twitter, rather than having direct contact with attendees.
Among those spotted was Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist podcaster who lurked around the edges of CPAC like a vulture. Faith Goldy, a white nationalist who ran for mayor of Toronto in 2018 — getting 3.4 percent of the vote — was also present. Patrick Casey, the executive director of the far-right group Identity Evropa, tried to get into CPAC before being informed that his pass had been canceled. Casey then promptly launched into an angry tweetstorm about how CPAC wasn’t a forum for real conservatives anyway.
Certainly the most amusing example of the far-right and its associated grifters attempting to get some form of CPAC cred occurred on Thursday afternoon, when noted pro-Trump trolls Laura Loomer and Jacob Wohl — both of whom were also denied their in their initial attempts to get into CPAC — held a “press conference” along with conservative lobbyist Jack Burkman to outline another set of spurious, unsubstantiated allegations, this time against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
The event rapidly devolved into farce, with Wohl talking over Loomer every time she tried to speak about her supposed “censoring” on social media, and journalists asking why a document marked “Strictly Private and Confidential” was being distributed to the public.
Wohl and Goldy were later spotted chatting to each other at CPAC, but wearing attendee and not media badges. It is not immediately clear why Wohl especially was allowed in, after being so pointedly denied entry earlier in the day.
Later that night Wohl made an appearance at an afterparty hosted by Turning Points USA, the conservative student group, which featured Donald Trump, Jr. and TPUSA leader Charlie Kirk. Among the (mostly college-aged) revelers was Enrique Tarrio, current leader of the far-right Proud Boys gang was also spotted roaming the halls.
On Friday, two members of the Proud Boys in New York City pled guilty to charges stemming from a fight outside the New York Metropolitan Republican club in 2018, where the Proud Boys viciously attacked counter-protesters.
But CPAC’s shooing away of far-right personalities, at least superficially, isn’t the sign of some conservative bulwark against far-right ideas.
Instead, CPAC this year has morphed into a celebration of Trumpism, not conservatism, and all the vitriol that comes along with it.
On Friday, for instance, Breitbart writer Michelle Malkin blamed moderate Republicans, including the “ghost of John McCain” for being in bed with “immigration saboteurs.” The crowd guffawed uproariously.