The True Culprit Behind CPAC's 'Nazi' Stage Steps Forward

AP Photo/John Raoux

Over the weekend, leftists seeking to delegitimize the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) claimed the stage was an inverted Odal rune, a lesser-known Norse symbol that the Nazis and some Neo-Nazi groups also adopted. Yet on Tuesday, a design firm publicly took responsibility for the stage design and reiterated what CPAC organizers had insisted from the beginning — the idea that the stage was a secret Nazi symbol was entirely baseless. In fact, the firm responsible for the stage design has a clear liberal bias.


Leftists suggested the image proved CPAC was in bed with Nazis and demanded Hyatt cancel the conference.

The suggestion was absurd, of course. American Conservative Union (ACU) Chair Matt Schlapp 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.”

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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 refused to cancel the conference, but right after the conference ended, the hotel company released a statement drawing more attention to the Nazi symbol claim, saying, “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.”


ACU’s lawyer responded with a scathing letter claiming Hyatt had “defamed” the ACU by appearing “to validate demonstrably false and malicious claims.” According to the letter, Hyatt staff “acknowledged that these claims were false.” ACU’s lawyer also claimed Hyatt had “approved and worked collaboratively to build the stage.”

On Tuesday, Design Foundry, a stage design firm based in Hyattsville, Md., filled in another piece of the story. In an exclusive statement to the Forward, Design Foundry took responsibility for the stage design and insisted that any apparent connection to a Nazi symbol was entirely unintentional.

Design Foundry said it “had no idea that the design resembled any symbol, nor was there any intention to create something that did.”

The firm said ACU had approved the stage design, which had been “intended to provide the best use of space, given the constraints of the ballroom and social distancing requirements.”

The firm said it was “saddened and horrified at the accusations that this was a deliberate act. Design Foundry denounces all hate speech and acts of racism, prejudice, or bigotry in all forms.”

According to the terms of Design Foundry’s contract with ACU, which the Forward examined, ACU approved the stage design but had no rights to change the design or to dismantle the stage. “The designs, renderings, drawings, specifications, materials and other documents used or created as part of the proposal are owned by Design Foundry,” the contract reads.

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Ian Walters, director of communications for the ACU and CPAC, told the Forward that the design firm “provided several options for us to choose from and what we ended up with was the most workable of the options they submitted.”

“ACU and CPAC have no interest in promoting antisemitism from our stage, whether it’s what happens on the stage or the design of the stage itself,” Walters added. “It’s clear that the company we retained designed a stage that has become an unwelcome distraction. As a result, we will not be using that company’s services going forward at future events.”

Design Foundry has worked with CPAC for several years and it does not appear that any previous stage design drew this kind of attention.

Naturally, some on the Left will continue to insist that CPAC had a Nazi stage, so it is important to point out that Design Foundry is not some alt-right Neo-Nazi design firm, or even an explicitly conservative company. In fact, all signs point in the opposite direction.

As the Forward noted, Design Foundry has worked with MSNBC and major corporations like Google, Citibank, and Target. According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records, the firm’s employers tend to bankroll Democrats and liberal causes.

Design Foundry employees contributed to ActBlue, a left-leaning small-dollar organization for “Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, progressive organizations, and nonprofits.” They also gave money to Biden for President, the Biden Victory Fund, Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund, and the leftist organization Design Foundry workers contributed to only one right-of-center group, and that donation involved a whopping $40.


It is perfectly acceptable for employees to make these kinds of donations — but this slant might reveal the corporate culture of a firm like Design Foundry.

Menken, the CJV managing director, mocked those who would continue to insist that the CPAC stage was a Nazi symbol.

“Now that we know that those who created the CPAC stage are Democratic donors, will those who accused CPAC now condemn every Democratic donor as supporting Naziism?” he tweeted. “Just wondering if they’ll be consistent… But I won’t hold my breath.”

Neither Menken nor ACU would seriously blame Democratic donors of secretly supporting Nazism, but the question reveals the utter hypocrisy of any continuing attacks on CPAC.

Now that Design Foundry has taken responsibility for the stage, PJ Media asked Hyatt to comment on the situation, asking whether the company would apologize to ACU. Hyatt did not respond by press time.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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