Was the CPAC Stage Designed to Look Like Nazi Insignia?

There is no evidence to support the claim.

After the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, social media users have claimed that the CPAC stage was designed to look like a Nazi insignia known as an Odal or Othala Rune.

Other posts acknowledge the stark resemblance between the Nazi symbol and the stage, but question if the design was intentional or not:

A post shared by Political Tea & Me (@politicalteaandme)

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According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Othala Rune falls under the category of “general hate symbols” and more specifically is charaterized as a neo-Nazi symbol. The symbol is part of the runic alphabet system, and as the ADL explains, the Nazis used it for: “the divisional insignia of two Waffen SS divisions during World War II. Following World War II, white supremacists in Europe, North America, and elsewhere began using the othala rune.” 

The ADL has also noted that this symbol is sometimes used in “non-extremist contexts”: “Because it is part of the runic alphabet, the symbol can also be found in non-extremist contexts as well, especially runic writing and runestones used by non-racist pagans. Consequently, care should be taken to evaluate the symbol in the context in which it appears.”

In response to the social media buzz, Hyatt released a statement calling hate symbols “abhorrent” and saying that any resmeblance of the CPAC statge to a Nazi symbol was “unintentional.” The full statement reads as follows: 

“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. 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. We discussed directly with ACU leadership who told us that any resemblance to a symbol of hate is unintentional. We will continue to stay in dialogue with event organizers regarding our deep concerns. Any further questions can be directed to CPAC.”

A representative of CPAC could not be reached for comment, but Matt Schlap, chairman of the American Conservative Union, addressed the matter on Twitter on February 27 saying that the “[S]tage design conspiracies are outrageous and slanderous.”

The Dispatch Fact Check reached out to Design Foundry, the company responsible for CPAC’s 2021 stage design, which shared a statement on the matter via email. The company has also worked with clients like MSNBC, NBC, The Atlantic, and Citibank, among others. Design Foundry has said that the stage design was not intended to resemble any symbols. The full statement reads as follows:

“We were retained by the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) to design the stage for this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). As part of our working agreement, the client provided our team with feedback, revisions, and final approval on all aspects of deliverables outlined in the contract—including stage design. The approved stage design was intended to provide the best use of space, given the constraints of the ballroom and social distancing requirements. The iterative design process included review and input from CPAC, the hosting event space, other vendors and county officials. We had no idea that the design resembled any symbol, nor was there any intention to create something that did. 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.”

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