This is today's Republican party, firmly in the camp of sexual predators and proud of it.
Columnist Mona Charen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center was met with jeers and boos when she criticized conservatives for supporting Roy Moore and President Donald Trump during a #UsToo panel at CPAC.
Charen was one of four women on the panel and was asked what upset her about today's feminism.
"I'm disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women," Charen said. "And because he happens to have a R after his name, we look the other way. We don't complain. This is a party that was ready to endorse -- the Republican party endorsed -- Roy Moore for the Senate in the state of Alabama even though he was a credibly accused child molester. You cannot claim that you stand for women and put up with that."
Audience members immediately pushed back at Charen with some shouting, "that's not true!"
President Donald Trump and the RNC backed Roy Moore in Alabama's US Senate race last year, despite allegations of sexual assault and child molestation against Moore. Moore has vehemently denied the accusations.
Charen did not mention Trump by name. However, through his representatives, Trump has previously denied having extramarital affairs with former porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The President also acknowledged in October 2016 that it was his voice on an "Access Hollywood" tape in which he boasted about grabbing women's genitalia.
Charen also criticized the conference for inviting Marion Le Pen, and the reaction was hostile enough that apparently someone was concerned enough about her safety exiting the conference to assign a security team to escort her out:
“Speaking of bad guys,” Charen injected, her tone louder and more aggressive than before, “there was quite an interesting person who was on this stage the other day. Her name is Marion Le Pen. Now, why was she here? Why was she here? She’s a young, no-longer-in-office politician from France. I think the only reason she was here is because she’s named Le Pen.” A man screamed from the audience: “Why are you here?” Charen continued: “And the Le Pen name is a disgrace. Her grandfather is a racist and a Nazi. She claims that she stands for him. And the fact that CPAC invited her is a disgrace.”
By the time Charen had finished, boos and taunts drowned out the applause. “You’re a disgrace!” another man shouted.
Waiting for Charen afterward in a hallway inside the Gaylord National Resort, I was surprised to see her surrounded by three security officers. She was surprised, too. Charen told me the detail had suddenly appeared backstage, “seemingly nervous,” having been assigned to protect her on the way out. As we talked, and the detail marched Charen briskly toward the front doors, a few people tried to approach her but nobody got close. “They were acting as if I were in real danger,” she texted me afterward, “which I didn’t feel at all.”
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and the chief organizer of CPAC, said he didn't see Charen’s panel and wasn’t sure who requested the security guards. Schlapp sought to cast the incident as evidence of the diverse viewpoints represented at the conference. “That’s a little bit of what CPAC’s all about,” he said. “We don't have a monolithic message. We put a lot of people on stage.”
This is a well-worn line for Schlapp, who has courted controversy at the past two conferences by inviting—and in certain cases, uninviting—fringe characters outside of the conservative mainstream. This year’s controversial guest list included Le Pen, a member of France’s far-right National Front party and the niece of its current leader; former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has encouraged violence against the media and in whose jails multiple inmates died; and Frank Gaffney, the conspiracy-minded national security hawk who has long been estranged from the conservative movement over his extreme anti-Islam rhetoric.
Schlapp defended his guests, and complained that critics are focusing on the “2 percent” of disruption at the conference instead of the “98 percent” of speeches, panels and workshops that went off without a hitch. Even if that ratio is warped, his point is fair: With scores of events spread across three days, this year’s CPAC was on the whole a quiet, non-confrontational affair. Schlapp also argued that the old internecine disputes over Trump are settled. “This idea that the Republican Party is somehow split, or the conservative movement is somehow split about Trump, it’s just not an accurate portrayal,” he said. Indeed, more than nine out of 10 attendees at this year’s CPAC approve of the president’s job performance, according to straw poll results.
That monolith is what made Charen’s remarks so unpopular—and what compelled some worried soul to assign her a security detail. It’s a dizzying bit of irony: There are indeed still plenty of prominent conservatives who object to Trump, yet they are unwelcome at an event they once dominated, replaced by fringe characters whose presence is justified by the pursuit of ideological diversity. “There are a huge number of conservatives who feel as I do. And I just felt it was important that people at this conference here from us, too,” Charen told me before leaving the hotel. “The conservative movement is broader than CPAC. And it still contains a tremendous number of people with principles and high standards.” She paused, then added, “There are still good people at CPAC. Very good people. But it’s important to draw a line.”