As usual, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference is a pretty good barometer for the state of the American right. While last year focused on ignoring the coronavirus during the early days of the crisis, this year’s official theme, “America Uncanceled,” tracks pretty consistently with Fox News’ and Josh Hawley’s obsession with political correctness and the perceived bias in tech against conservatives.
But thanks to some of the more conspiratorial ideas circling around in the big tent of the Republican coalition, CPAC was unable to provide its attendees a space safe from censorship. On Monday, three days before the conference began, it canceled an appearance from a panelist who “has expressed reprehensible views that have no home with our conference or our organization.” Though CPAC did not initially state who they booted from their list of speakers, the decision came hours after Media Matters published a story about the panelist Young Pharaoh, an online commentator who has called Judaism a “complete lie” and claimed that “all the censorship & social media platforms are controlled by CCP & Israel through Jewish CEO & corrupt Democrats.” Soon after, Ben Jacobs reported that the rapper was removed from the program. Young Pharaoh later confirmed to The Hill that he had been cut from his Saturday appearance; in an interview he repeated several anti-Semitic claims, and added: “Basically, I’m being censored.”
While the conference is correct in its decision not to give a platform to such ideas, their presence within a tent-pole conservative event should not come as a surprise. In August, the Republican National Convention was forced to nix a speaker named Mary Ann Mendoza after she urged her supporters to learn about a purported Jewish plan to enslave the world. It was not a recommendation dredged up from her past: She tweeted out the conspiracy hours before her scheduled appearance.
For those concerned that CPAC has cleared its programming of all speakers who carry “reprehensible views,” fear not. A brief spin through CPAC’s 2021 speaker list shows Representative Paul Gosar — who has claimed that the violence in Charlottesville was funded by George Soros and has reported ties with far-right street thugs — and anti-shutdown gym owner Ian Smith, who used a megaphone with a white-supremacist sticker on it last summer. (An attorney for Smith claims it was handed to him.) Then there’s the keynote speaker: former President Donald Trump.