On Thursday, Donald Trump unexpectedly folded on the question of adding a citizenship question to the census. After warning that he could absolutely put the issue in place with an executive order, Trump hauled out his attorney general and secretary of commerce, set up a podium in the Rose Garden, and did what he always does when not throwing insults—he whined. But Trump had the perfect audience for his “We tried to slip this in at the last minute, then ran out of time, so it’s all everyone else’s fault” complaint. Because on Thursday afternoon, Trump filled the Rose Garden with a collection of villainy and scum that would embarrass any Mos Eisley cantina.
The event was labeled as a “press conference,” but it was a very Trumpian press conference: one at which Trump took no questions, and one where the actual press was made to stand at a distance on the other side of ropes. That’s because all the chairs at this press conference were reserved for the internet’s most hateful: the alt-right pundits that were scraped up to attend Trump’s “social media summit.” That group didn’t try to ask Trump any questions. That’s not their role. Instead, they used this moment of access and historic location to join Trump in attacking the free press.
There was badge-wearing Nazi, and former Trump adviser, Sebastian Gorka threatening reporters. And there was professional 9/11 truther Mark Dice yelling at CNN. There was pundit, songwriter, and congressional candidate Joy Villa—a candidate in California, or New York, or possibly Florida, she hasn’t made up her mind yet—smirking at the media and informing them that their day, the day where people asked questions, expected answers, and checked those responses for truthfulness, is over.
These are the voices that Trump is trying to elevate. Voices that scream racism. Voices that scream hate. And, in the case of Dice, voices that scream that both Hollywood and the music industry are run by a combination of Illuminati and Satanists who hide spells in Super Bowl halftime rituals designed to blind the public to the existence of a worldwide gay conspiracy. And the Starbucks logo features a mermaid prostitute. And Katy Perry is a witch.
But the real purpose of Trump’s “social media summit” wasn’t to promote conspiracy theorists. It was to promote two of his own conspiracy theories.