CPAC Stage Designers Swear Nazi Symbol Was an Accident and Stop Being Mean

How a Norse symbol used by the SS ended up as the floor plan of the main stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
March 3, 2021, 7:22pm
The main stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The main stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

So continues the saga of the accidentally fascist CPAC stage.

The platform at this year’s Trump-obsessed Conservative Political Action Conference was built in the shape of a Nazi symbol that was worn on SS uniforms. But the firm that created the stage insists that was pure coincidence.

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Design Foundry, the Maryland-based firm that designed the stage for last weekend’s event in Orlando, claimed responsibility in a statement first reported by The Forward.

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

During the four-day conference, which was headlined by former President Donald Trump and featured him listing every Republican who voted for his impeachment by name, some observers noted that the shape of the stage bore a striking resemblance to the Odal rune.

As the event was held at the Hyatt Regency, the chain put out a statement Sunday saying “all such symbols are abhorrent and unequivocally counter to our values as a company.”

“The CPAC 2021 event is hosted and managed by the American Conservative Union that manages all aspects of event logistics, including the stage design and aesthetics,” Hyatt said in a statement. “We discussed directly with ACU leadership who told us that any resemblance to a symbol of hate is unintentional.”

In response, ACU general counsel David Safavian ripped Hyatt. “Hyatt made a decision to issue additional statements late last night after the conference ended that disparaged and defamed us,” Safavian said in a letter to Hyatt chair Thomas J. Pritzker. “These statements appear to validate demonstrably false and malicious claims.”

Originally a character in the runic alphabet used in Europe from before the Roman Empire, the Odal rune (like other Norse symbology) gained modern prominence in Nazi Germany as the emblem worn on the uniform of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS. The National Socialist Movement, the successor to the American Nazi Party, announced in November 2016 that the Odal rune would replace the swastika as the organization’s logo, calling it a “slight rebranding.” 

“Your Party Platform remains the same, your Party remains unchanged, it is a cosmetic overhaul only,” NSM leader Jeff Schoep said at the time. 

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Design Foundry, which has reportedly worked with corporations such as Google and Target as well as MSNBC, said that the ACU gave final approval over all aspects of the deliverable. The contract stipulated, however, that the ACU had no legal rights to change the design or alter the stage, the Forward reported.

“The approved stage design was intended to provide the best use of space, given the constraints of the ballroom and social distancing requirements,” Design Foundry said. 

CPAC has said it will not use the company again, but forcefully denied allegations of implicit anti-Semitism.

“Stage design conspiracies are outrageous and slanderous. We have a long standing commitment to the Jewish community,” American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp tweeted after the image went viral. “Cancel culture extremists must address anti-Semitism within their own ranks. CPAC proudly stands with our Jewish allies, including those speaking from this stage.”