NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND — As prominent conservatives denounced him from the stage Thursday morning, white supremacist Richard Spencer said he felt welcome as he walked the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C.
“Praise Pepe!” he said as he posed for selfies with young conference attendees.
Inside the ballroom, American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider called Spencer anti-Semitic, racist, and sexist during a talk called “The Alt Right Ain’t Right at All.” Spencer hijacked the term “alt-right,” Schneider claimed, and its supporters are in no way conservative.
But outside, wearing an official CPAC badge, Spencer told reporters that he actually coined the term “alt-right” and therefore could not have coopted it. He claimed that Schneider is “small-minded” and “denounced me in totally stupid ways.”
As reporters asked him whether he feels like he has a friend in the White House, Spencer said that conservatives need to understand that the president stands with the “alt-right”: white nationalists of Spencers’ ilk.
“Donald Trump is stumbling toward a nationalist ideology,” he said. “In that way, he has a connection with the alt-right. He has a deeper connection with us than with conservatives, who believe in ‘sovereign individuality’ and ‘free-market capitalism’ and so on.”
“He has a deeper connection with us because we are about the nation too,” he continued. “He’s getting there. The arrow of history is pointing in our direction.”
When it comes to specific members of Trump’s staff, Spencer said that Steve Bannon — who will speak to CPAC later Thursday — is not “alt-right” but is open to the group’s ideas. He repeatedly brought up senior advisor Stephen Miller, saying that Miller understands white nationalist ideologies.
Less than an hour later, Spencer was escorted out of the convention by security, but not before praising Trump’s Muslim ban, immigration orders, and plans for a wall, and saying that Trump should cut down on “legal immigration.”
“There’s a famous adage that first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win,” Spencer said. “I think right now they’re fighting us.”