Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaking at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Michael Brochstein—SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Erin Corbett
March 1, 2019

The chairman of the American Conservative Union sought Friday to defend the conservative ideology of nationalism, in a Fox News appearance.

Matt Schlapp said, “there’s nothing wrong with nationalism,” while also discussing the need for secure borders.

“A lot of people in the media try to say that the conservative movement is mean, and intolerant, and unsympathetic,” said Schlapp, also chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference, which this week is meeting in suburban Washington, D.C.

“And when you walk these halls and listen to these speakers, you believe, actually, our vision is to allow Americans to live the life they want to live, to chart their own course,” Schlapp said.

Schlapp’s use of the word nationalism was reminiscent of President Donald Trump in October referring to himself as a “nationalist,” during a speech in Texas. Trump also highlighted the label in the context of his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which inflamed critics who said he was being anti-immigrant.

While neither Schlapp nor Trump specified an affinity for white nationalism, some connected the term nationalism to the uptick in white nationalist organizing and far-right fringe movements during the Trump administration.

For its part, CPAC has wrestled with white nationalism. Last year, Richard Spencer, a white supremacist figurehead of the so-called Alt-Right was barred entry to the conference.

However, other white supremacists made their way into the meeting, including Nicholas Fuentes, who hosts the America First podcast and attended the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Fuentes was reportedly denied entry this year.

Conservatives and far-right activists are gathering this week at the conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Some of this year’s attendees include former Breitbart editor and White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, as well as members of the far-right group Turning Point USA.

Meanwhile, President Trump is scheduled to speak Saturday at the conference. Other scheduled speakers are Vice President Mike Pence, far-right commentator and Turning Point USA communications director Candace Owens, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, and California Rep. Devin Nunes.

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