CPAC found its way into plenty of headlines over the past few days, but the conservative conference held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Fla., is now raising eyebrows for something that usually escapes notice: the shape of the stage. The Washington Post reports that over the weekend, observers started circulating photos of the stage, pointing out that it looked to be in the shape of an othala rune, a symbol appropriated by the Nazis as an insignia during World War II. Per the Anti-Defamation League, the othala rune, along with other symbols, was used by the Nazis to "reconstruct a mythic 'Aryan' past." Today, the symbol can be found on white supremacist banners and flags, as well as in logos and tattoos. Per Reuters, the lighting display on the ceiling of the CPAC conference room at the Hyatt was also configured in the shape of the rune.
CPAC's organizers are calling the claims "outrageous and slanderous," with Matt Schlapp, chair of the host American Conservative Union, tweeting that organizers "have a long standing commitment to the Jewish community" and that "CPAC proudly stands with our Jewish allies." Forbes notes Hyatt is now dealing with a huge "public relations disaster," including calls for a boycott. The hotel chain put out a short statement on Sunday, calling symbols like the rune "abhorrent and unequivocally counter to our values as a company," but it said it would let the conference continue, as organizers told Hyatt the stage's resemblance to the hate symbol was "unintentional." Later in the day, Hyatt put out a second, longer release, blasting many CPAC participants for "disrespect" to its workers for refusing to wear masks and socially distance. As for the stage, the chain added it would have "proactively" dealt with it had it realized what it looked like ahead of the event. (Read more CPAC stories.)