One week after a Virginia nightclub received harassing phone calls for declining to host an inauguration party dubbed the “DeploraBall,” the Donald Trump supporters behind the event have found a new venue to celebrate the election of their media-bashing candidate: the National Press Club.
“Doing it at the press club asserts that we’re a new force in town,” said Jeff Giesea, one of the organizers. “And we’re not just doing it as a troll.”
The Jan. 19 party had garnered attention on Twitter earlier this month in part because several of its slated guests are best known for being online provocateurs, contributing to conspiracy-theory websites and sharing views with the alt-right, an extremist movement of mostly young men seeking a whites-only nation.
But the organizers say they are simply fans of the president-elect and in no way connected to the alt-right, which has come under intense scrutiny since a number of its members flashed Nazi salutes at a Washington conference last month.
“This is an event for Trump supporters from across the country, from all backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life,” the event’s site says, adding: “We will not tolerate any incendiary actions, remarks or gestures that go against the ‘open basket’ spirit of the event.”
Giesea reiterated that point in an interview Thursday.
“Moms from the Midwest are flying out for this,” he said. “They’re not part of the alt-right. They don’t even know what that is.”
In a statement, press club President Thomas Burr said that its downtown D.C. location would host “a private, client-paid inaugural ball for supporters of President-elect Donald Trump — as we have for incoming presidents of both parties for decades.
“This is not an event,” he added, “sponsored or endorsed by the National Press Club.”
The leaders of the DeploraBall — a name inspired by Hillary Clinton’s description of some Trump supporters as “deplorables” — had been in talks with the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington, but, according to a statement, the venue backed out because of “the suspicious actions of the organizers” — not because of political pressure. Party promoters had sold hundreds of tickets and claimed online that the ballroom was booked before any contracts had been signed.
The venue’s staff later told police that they had received harassing phone calls.
“I think there was a perception that they did it partly for political reasons,” Giesea said. “We certainly didn’t encourage anyone to troll them.”
The controversy has not curtailed interest in the party, which quickly sold out of its 1,000 tickets.
“Tickets get you in the door,” the site says, “with open bar, light hors d’oeuvres, fun people, cool music, and endless memes.”
Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.