Images of the CPAC stage went viral this weekend as many noted a resemblance to the Odal or Othala Rune, a symbol emblazoned on some Nazi uniforms. The Anti-Defamation League has classified the insignia as a hate symbol that has been adopted by modern day white supremacists.
CPAC’s organizers vehemently denied any link between the stage design and the Nazi symbology, calling the criticism “outrageous and slanderous.”
“We have a long standing commitment to the Jewish community,” Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, said on Saturday in a tweet. “Cancel culture extremists must address antisemitism within their own ranks. CPAC proudly stands with our Jewish allies, including those speaking from this stage.”
As the controversy continued on Sunday, Hyatt Hotels said in a statement that it had addressed the concerns with the conference and denounced any use of hate symbols.
“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,” said Hyatt, which had faced pointed criticism for hosting the event.
The hotel noted it allowed the event to continue after organizers “told us that any resemblance to a symbol of hate is unintentional.”
The blowback comes after CPAC organizers disinvited a scheduled speaker, social media figure Young Pharaoh, after liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America reported he had made antisemitic comments on Twitter. Pharaoh tweeted that Judaism is a “complete lie” and “made up for political gain,” and said Jews are “thieving.”
According to the ADL, hate crimes against Jewish people in 2019 reached the highest number since the organization started keeping track in 1979, with 2,107 incidents, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
The Othala Rune, which was derived from the Germanic alphabet used in pre-Roman Europe, was used by Nazis in an “attempt to reconstruct a mythic ‘Aryan’ past,” according to the ADL. The rune was used as insignia for two units in the Waffen-SS, which was “heavily involved” in carrying out the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
More recently, neo-Nazis and white supremacists have reused the symbol. Members often feature it in tattoos, in logos, or on flags, according to the ADL. The symbol was reportedly seen on at least one a banner at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
Antisemitic symbols were also used by some members of the pro-Trump mob that violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. One man wore a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt, and many held “America First” flags, a reference to a podcast hosted by Nick Fuentes, whose followers call themselves “Groyper Army.” According to the ADL the group embraces racist and antisemitic views.
CPAC this weekend gave a notable platform to Trump, who used the conference to attempt to solidify his hold on the GOP. The former president also said he would consider running again in 2024.
Trump’s campaign has had to disavow Nazi symbology in the past. In November, his reelection campaign posted dozens of ads on Facebook with a red inverted triangle, a symbol used by Nazis to identify political prisoners in concentration camps. Facebook deactivated the ads.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, claimed that the shape is an “antifa symbol.”
“We would note that Facebook still has an inverted red triangle emoji in use, which looks exactly the same, so it’s curious that they would target only this ad,” Murtaugh said.