Donald Trump has pinned his re-election hopes on a coronavirus vaccine. As the death toll from the pandemic approaches 200,000, the president has hyped up his administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine effort and claimed, in the face of expert opinion, that a vaccine could be available within four weeks. His party, in turn, has chastised anyone who has suggested that he may be politicizing vaccine development as an anti-vaxxer.
But next month, as the COVID-19 virus could very well be entering an expected second wave, one of Trump’s hotels will become a hub for anti-vaccine activism. Some of the most notorious figures in the anti-vaccine movement are set to converge on the president’s Trump National Doral Miami resort in early October for a MAGA-world conference.
The anti-vaccine figures won’t be the only fringe GOP movement represented at Trump’s property during the American Priority Conference or “AMPFest,” which runs between Oct. 8 and Oct 11. They’ll be joined by top QAnon conspiracy theory promoters, including one with a history of anti-Semitic remarks.
There’s even a pool party.
Anti-vaccine heavyweights Robert Kennedy Jr. and Del Bigtree are scheduled to appear in early October at Doral Miami for the MAGA-heavy AMPFest, a conglomeration of Trumpworld personalities now in its third year that was started by a handful of conservative internet activists as a more explicitly pro-Trump alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Kennedy, who has become perhaps the leading anti-vaccine figure in the country while being denounced by other members of his own family, appears near the top of AMPFest’s program. So does Bigtree, who once donned a Nazi-style Jewish star in opposition to government mandates for people to take the measles vaccine.
Kennedy even qualifies as a headliner on AMPFest advertisements online, pictured alongside other scheduled speakers like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), former Trump adviser Roger Stone, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza.
Bigtree and Kennedy aren’t the only anti-vaccine movement figures set to appear at AMPFest. The speakers’ list also includes Dr. Shannon Kroner, the head of a group devoted to preserving religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, and Dr. James Neuenschwander, a doctor who’s appeared on Bigtree’s online show and suggested—wrongly—that autism is tied to vaccines.
The prominence of anti-vaccine figures on the AMPFest program marks a change for American Priority, whose earlier conferences didn’t prominently feature vaccine opponents. And it comes amid a flood of medical disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. AMPFest’s 2019 iteration became briefly infamous after the conference played an edited video from 2014 action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service that showed Trump massacring his political critics and media figures in a church.
The Trump Organization didn’t respond to a request for comment about the anti-vaccine figures appearing at Doral Miami. American Priority president Alex Phillips didn’t address the new prominence of anti-vaccine figures on this year’s program in an email to The Daily Beast, writing instead that AMPFest’s doesn’t have “ideological purity tests” for speakers.
“We as an organization respect the sanctity of free speech and free association as a cornerstone of the American constitution,” Phillips wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.
AMPFest attendees who pony up for the $300 general admission ticket or a $2,500 VIP ticket—as well as a $36 boxed lunch with sandwich, cookies, and soda if COVID-19 restrictions force the hotel to close its restaurants—will also be treated to a series of more mundane MAGA-world activities. There’s a speech from Stone, a pool party featuring “MAGA DJ” duo Milk N Cooks, and the debut of a swimsuit line designed by Simona Mangiante, the wife of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
AMPFest is scheduled to feature a rogue’s gallery of MAGA internet characters. Tina Forte, a trash-talking anti-mask activist who has risen to fame on the right during the pandemic for viral, expletive-filled rants in which she rages against Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), is also set to appear. So is anti-Muslim figure Laura Loomer, now a Republican House candidate running a longshot campaign in the Florida congressional district that includes Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The speaker’s line-up also includes Matt Couch, an internet conspiracy theorist being sued by the brother of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
QAnon conspiracy theory promoters are also set to appear at Doral Miami. Tracy Diaz, who uses the alias “Tracy Beanz” online, was one of the first QAnon promoters and is scheduled to speak at AMPFest. So is DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, a failed GOP congressional candidate and QAnon supporter who was recently hired at conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars.
AMPFest’s line-up also includes Zach Vorhies, a conspiracy theorist with a history of anti-Semitic remarks. Vorhies initially earned some fame on the right after serving as a “whistleblower” for undercover conservative operative James O’Keefe. But Vorhies has a long record of anti-Semitic remarks, once alleging that “Zionists” killed Andrew Breitbart and that Israel planned 9/11.
Vorhies has used tweets with the “echo parentheses” used by white supremacists to denote Jewish people and the phrase “ZOG,” a white supremacist term for the idea that the United States is a “Zionist Occupied Government.”
Despite his history of anti-Semitic remarks, Vorhies has become a prominent figure on the fringe right, and played a key role in disseminating Plandemic, the viral coronavirus disinformation video.
In 2019, The Washington Post reported that Doral Miami’s receipts had plummeted over the last two years, with its net operating income dropping by 69 percent over two years. The president himself seems acutely aware of the hotel’s financial situation. In the fall of 2019, he decided to schedule the G7 meeting there despite widespread outcry that it was a blatant use of his office for personal enrichment. He eventually backed down.
Originally published: 2020-09-16 03:39:05