CPAC 2023: Shabbat and Groypers
A Big Tent Party
CPAC 2023 was a low energy event with bad vibes, full of deluded thinking and hate — basically, exactly what you might expect.
But something that was unexpected was Marriott Residence Inn National Harbor’s decision to host both the official CPAC Shabbat and Nick Fuentes’ pro-Hitler gathering on the same day.
CPAC Shabbat ended at 7:00pm, but when I arrived around 7:30, there were still volunteers hanging out in the lobby and tearing down. Some had their young children with them, forcing families to figure out how to explain what was going on as Groypers filled the lobby.
Ye evangelist Dalton Clodfelter and one of his sidekicks acted as security for Fuentes’ rally. Despite posting photos all week and working as livestreamers, the pair hid their faces with sunglasses and masks. Clad in kevlar and clutching metal detecting wands, it appeared their goal was to look intimidating (though Clodfelter’s meek insistence I leave “before we escalate the situation,” followed by him scampering off to find a hotel employee to whine about me to, suggested they were all aesthetic).
Of course, most people in the hotel did not recognize Clodfelter’s fluffy hair poking out under his America First hat. In fact, the only thing most people seemed to really know was that the large group of young men gathering in the lobby, equipped with their own security and chanting loudly, were part of a Hitler-loving group of Christian nationalists.
Every year, CPAC Shabbat is organized by volunteers from the Young Jewish Conservatives. It is an official CPAC event, fully authorized by American Conservative Union (the organization that runs CPAC). When I asked YJC if they planned to issue a statement about Saturday night, I was told, “I don’t know who you are or what outfit you’re writing for; but at this time I don’t think a statement is necessary nor do I have time to craft one.” They informed me Shabbat was over before Fuentes’ event started, and referred me to the statement given by CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp after Fuentes was ejected from CPAC earlier in the week:
We removed Nick Fuentes from his attempt to attend our conference. His hateful racist rhetoric and actions are not consistent with the mission of PAC. We are pleased that our conference welcomes a wide array of conservative perspectives from people of different backgrounds, but we are concerned about the rise in antisemitic rhetoric (or Jew hatred) in our country and around the globe, whether it be in the corridors of power and academia or through the online rantings of bigots like Fuentes.
But Schlapp’s statement was issued two days before Shabbat. Nothing in it addresses the fact that members of CPAC’s Jewish community were forced to directly engage with Fuentes and his ilk, all because they didn’t immediately leave the venue after Shabbat was over. When I asked ACU and Schlapp if they wished to make a statement on behalf of or in support of CPAC’s Jewish community, I did not receive a response.
CPAC has been held in National Harbor, Maryland since 2013, only interrupted by COVID in 2021 and 2022. Certainly Schlapp and ACU regularly bring in more money for the Residence Inn than Fuentes did renting out a single event space that held 90 people for 2 hours.
But Marriott corporate (both national and regional) has ignored my repeated requests for comment. The people answering the phone at the Residence Inn have told me they are happy to take my phone number and tell a manager that people have questions about the event, but no one has gotten back to me.
Since National Harbor pretty much only exists to host conventions and sell attendees mediocre food at overpriced restaurants, most places in town are members of the National Harbor Convention and Visitors Association. When asked how they would handle this next year, the NHCVA, whose membership appears to include both the Gaylord (CPAC’s host hotel) and Residence Inn, could not commit to alerting their members to Fuentes’ pro-Hitler gatherings. In fact, the NHCVA appeared to take no stance on the issue, telling me that they “[do] not have access to the private room bookings or guest lists at National Harbor hotels” (something I did not ask them to provide, and something that isn’t needed to preemptively alert member venues about a Nazi group coming to town).
After Fuentes’ event was over Saturday evening, a Groyper approached me in the Gaylord hotel. He asked me why I left the rally early, and I held up my press badge. “No journalists, no drag queens. Per Nick himself.”
He informed me someone told the fire marshal they were over capacity, and that 20 people were forced to leave. He shot me an accusatory look, and I shrugged. “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t any of the journalists. We were all together the whole time.”
“Well,” he said as he started to walk away. “If it wasn’t the journalists, it must have been the Jews.”
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