White nationalist leader Richard Spencer booted from CPAC after getting credentials

One of the country’s most prominent white nationalists, Richard Spencer, was kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday after conference organizers gave him credentials to attend and then wavered on whether to let him stay.

It was the second time in a week that the organizers of the annual conference have awkwardly pushed out a far-right supporter of President Trump. Last week, CPAC organizers who had invited the British provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to give a speech quickly disinvited him after footage emerged of Yiannopoulos appearing to promote pedophilia.

The tentative purges are a sign of the challenges conservatives face in policing the outer boundaries of their movement as Trump takes the GOP in a more nationalist direction. The shift, while energizing many working-class voters, has also attracted the vocal support of white nationalists like Spencer, who coined the term “alternative right” to describe his far-right views on separating the races.

Attending CPAC requires registration and can cost up to $300, and Spencer came to CPAC to attend a speech that was critical of the “alt-right.”

In 2015 and 2016, Spencer’s alt-right label became associated with a loose-knit movement of white nationalists, misogynists and anti-Semites who often harassed prominent liberals online and supported Trump’s rhetoric about stopping Muslim immigration and deporting immigrants who had entered the U.S. illegally. For the most part, the term is now embraced mostly by white nationalists.

After leaving the speech, Spencer was quickly surrounded by a crowd of journalists who quizzed him on his views as curious passersby craned their necks to see who was causing such a scene. Several asked, “Who is that?”

A bearded Trump voter who was wearing a denim vest and a bandanna with an eagle on it and called himself “Grizzly Joe” confronted Spencer for attending the conference. 

”He’s a white supremacist,” the man said after walking away. “He shouldn’t be here jumping on the Republican bandwagon. Supremacists of any kind are no use to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, anybody. They’re savages.”

CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp at one point stood about a dozen feet from the crowd around Spencer and 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.”

Schlapp added, of Spencer, “This is America, and we have to deal with the laws and, you know, all I can tell you is that if he had comments we’d agree with, he’d be on our stage, but he’s not on our stage.”

When asked if Schlapp wanted Spencer to leave, Schlapp responded: “Richard Spencer is not on our agenda, we did not invite him, there’s all kinds of people I suppose who can buy tickets, we have a constitution, we have laws in this country, and I think it would be better if y’all [journalists] didn’t give him attention.”

Though, Schlapp added, “I’d rather he not be here.”

Twenty minutes later, a security guard asked Spencer to leave, and Spencer left — but he first spoke with dozens of journalists who had come to cover CPAC. In an email, a spokesman for the conference told The Times, “He is not welcome here.”

Spencer said CPAC had fired the first shot.

“The fact is, people want to talk to me, not these boring conservatives,” Spencer said. He added, “CPAC can’t hold a speech denouncing the alt-right and expect me not to come.”

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@mattdpearce

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