The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is underway in Orlando, Florida, opening with a 2020 election conspiracy supercut, a video heralding cancel culture “victim” Gina Carano and a gold statue of ousted president Donald Trump raising eyebrows in the Hyatt Regency lobby ahead of his headline speech on Sunday.
Mr Trump is widely expected to announce a 2024 presidential run during his address to the four-day gathering - described as “Woodstock for election liars” by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper - a prospect dismissed by his White House successor Joe Biden, who has said he will not be paying attention.
Friday’s session has already been hit by controversy after members of the crowd booed when asked to wear their Covid face masks by organisers. Florida’s govenor Ron DeSantis kicked off proceedings by declaring his state was “open for business”.
Texas senator Ted Cruz mocked Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his remarks that have been widely derided online and described as “embarrassing”. Not to be outdone, Rep Matt Gaetz declared himself a “Florida man” and made a stream of sexist and transphobic jokes, calling on people to join him in the “America First” movement.
Donald Trump Jr took to the stage with much bombast, introduced by his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and took potshots at a number of popular targets of the day, from the media to Democrats, to traditional Republicans, before previewing his father’s much-anticipated speech on Sunday.