CPAC head rips ‘alt-right’; Priebus, Bannon talk unity

Matt Pearce
Los Angeles Times

The leader of the American Conservative Union forcefully denounced the alternative right as “sinister” as the Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off Thursday.

Dan Schneider, the ACU’s executive director, which organizes CPAC, called the alt-right anti-Semitic, racist and sexist.

He said people who hold those beliefs are in no way conservative. “They despise everything that we believe in,” he said.

Schneider specifically decried a recent Washington meeting of people who were shown on video extending their arms in the Nazi salute.

The leader of that meeting stood just steps away. Richard Spencer, one of America’s most prominent white nationalists, wore a general admission badge, an indication he paid to attend. But shortly afterward, Spencer was kicked out.

In 2015 and 2016, Spencer’s term “alt-right” became associated with a loose-knit movement of white nationalists, misogynists and anti-Semites who often harassed prominent liberals online. For the most part, the term is now embraced mostly by white nationalists.

CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp defended the conference for allowing Spencer in, while trying to distance CPAC from the fringe Spencer represents.

“The ‘alt-right’ does not have a legitimate voice in the conservative movement,” said Schlapp, adding that “nobody from that movement is speaking at CPAC.”

Hours later, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, took the stage with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to insist that everything is running fine in the nascent administration.

Despite several weeks of often-rough headlines for the administration and rampant chatter about tensions between Bannon and Priebus, the two men sought to project unity.

“In regard to us two, the biggest misconception is everything you’re reading,” Priebus said. “We share an office suite together, we’re basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night.”

And during their 25-minute panel, they often found common ground in their open distaste for the media — though they differed over the extent of their mistrust of the press.

“Not only is it not going to get better, it’s going to get worse every day,” Bannon said of the media’s treatment of Trump. “They’re corporatist, globalist media. They’re adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda President Trump has.”

The crowd cheered Bannon’s assessment.

“Every day is going to be a fight,” he said.

Associated Press contributed.