The American Conservative Union (ACU), the organization behind the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), is “seriously considering all options,” ACU President Matt Schlapp told PJ Media on Monday after ACU’s general counsel sent a letter to Hyatt protesting the company’s decision to breathe new life into a conspiracy theory regarding the CPAC stage.
Leftist detractors strained to find a Nazi symbol related to CPAC, and they seized on the shape of the main stage. Leftists claimed that the stage was an inverted Odal rune, a symbol some Neo-Nazi groups use.
Are you okay with Nazi symbols being used on your properties?
Because if you fail to speak out & do something about this immediately, I’ll be sure to no longer patronize any of your properties ever again. #CPAC2021 #CPACstage #CPACNazi pic.twitter.com/beFauYAMwO
— Sari Beth Rosenberg (@saribethrose) February 27, 2021
The suggestion was absurd, of course. American Conservative Union (ACU) Chair Matt Slapp denounced the “stage design conspiracies” as “outrageous and slanderous.” CPAC supports the Jewish State of Israel, hosted multiple Jewish prayer services and a Shabbat dinner, and denounces the anti-Semitism of Democrats who spread a modern blood libel against Israel. Even the left-leaning Snopes fact-checked the insinuation that CPAC designed the stage to look like a Nazi symbol and found it “unproven.”
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) had the perfect response. “The left is desperate to draw attention from their elevation of antisemites in Congress… so they claim a stage design is antisemitic,” he said on Twitter. “The Left traffics in ‘dog whistles’ so incredibly sensitive that only leftists can hear them, as compared to the supposed targets, who only see a stage.”
Hyatt wisely refused to cancel the conference. A hotel spokesperson said, “We believe in the right of individuals and organizations to peacefully express their views, independent of the degree to which the perspectives of those hosting meetings and events at our hotels align with ours.”
Yet on Sunday afternoon, as CPAC ended, Hyatt released another statement that needlessly drew attention to the claim.
“We take the concern raised about the prospect of symbols of hate being included in the stage design at CPAC 2021 very seriously as all such symbols are abhorrent and unequivocally counter to our values as a company,” a spokesperson told Reuters.
Hyatt leadership apparently felt the need to clarify why the company had not canceled CPAC mid-event.
“With CPAC’s denial of any intentional connection to hate symbols and our concerns over the safety of guests and colleagues in what could have been a disruptive situation, we allowed the event to continue,” the company explained.
Hyatt went on to claim that “colleagues occasionally faced hostility from attendees” at CPAC when staff reminded attendees to wear masks and to follow social-distancing protocols. Hyatt also said it was “extremely disappointed by the disrespect many individuals involved in the event showed to our colleagues.”
Hyatt did make it clear that attendees would have to wear masks and practice social distancing, and CPAC attendees should have gladly abided by those rules. Yet it seems odd for Hyatt to criticize attendees in a statement expressing “concern” about “hate symbols.” While Hyatt rightly stood up to cancel culture while CPAC took place, it seems the company sought to signal its virtue afterward.
According to ACU, Hyatt worked with the conservative group to organize the event, and Hyatt had “approved and worked collaboratively to build this stage.” ACU’s general counsel, David Safavian, sent a scathing letter to Hyatt Executive Chairman Thomas Pritzker on Monday. While the letter did not make any explicit legal threats, ACU’s claims suggest the organization might sue Hyatt for defamation.
“Hyatt made a decision to issue additional statements late last night after the conference ended that disparaged and defamed us. These statements appear to validate demonstrably false and malicious claims,” Safavian wrote. “When we learned of the orchestrated assault on us, we immediately contacted your senior management to set the record straight. Together, we quickly responded to these slanderous accusations.”
“Your hotel’s senior management was on notice and acknowledged that these claims were false and agreed to share any statement before its release,” the ACU lawyer added. He said the organization was “shocked” that Hyatt issued additional statements after the conference, statements he said were “irresponsible, untrue, and contribute to a climate of division and hatred.”
“For months we have collaborated with your team on logistics, including sharing, reviewing, and approving the stage design that was created by one of our subcontractors. The fact that no one on the Hyatt staff ever raised concerns during the process shows the ridiculous nature of your statements,” Safavian added.
“Moreover, your statements falsely conceal your oversight role. In fact, the Hyatt Hotel, with our organization and subcontractors, approved and worked collaboratively to build this stage. Only after a coordinated far-left assault to destroy our conference arose did you succumb to lies and compound them with your own,” the ACU lawyer argued.
“Our Jewish Board Members, staff, speakers, and attendees are appalled by the Hyatt leadership for not standing with us as we fight against antisemitism (a term that Hyatt fails to use in its statements). We would have hoped that our 10th annual Shabbat Dinner, daily Jewish prayer services, and speeches on the main stage from Jewish leaders, such as Ambassador David Friedman, Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, and Rabbi Yitz Tendler would be enough to put an end to these outrageous falsehoods,” Safavian added.
“The theme of CPAC 2021 was ‘America UnCanceled.’ It is tragic and reckless that Hyatt would choose to abandon its own mission statement of inclusivity and play into the hands of those who are attempting to silence legitimate political views,” the lawyer concluded.
If indeed Hyatt worked closely with the ACU on the CPAC stage construction and if Hyatt staff agreed that the Nazi conspiracy theory was false before Hyatt released the statement on Sunday, ACU would have a strong defamation case.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.