Citing security concerns, the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador resort has canceled plans to host an “immigration conference” organized by VDare, a small nonprofit that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a white nationalist hate group.
“The safety and security of our guests and employees is of the utmost importance,” El Conquistador general manager Ghee Alexander said in an emailed statement on Friday. “After careful consideration, the hotel has decided to terminate its contract with VDare. We will not be hosting the event previously booked at the Hilton El Conquistador for March of 2018.”
Connecticut-based VDare had advertised the conference as bringing together “all the most controversial immigration patriots in one place,” in an Oct. 12 tweet.
El Conquistador management declined the Star’s interview request and did not respond to emailed questions about whether management was aware of VDare’s hate-group designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Alabama-based civil-rights group said VDare regularly publishes authors who “decry the demise of white America.”
In 2012, the Anti-Defamation League said VDare “posts, promotes, and archives the work of racists, anti-immigrant figures, and anti-Semites.”
In a Friday email to the Star, VDare.com editor Peter Brimelow disputed the “hate group” designation.
“Essentially, we advocate for the president’s immigration agenda,” he said. “Would he be allowed to speak in Tucson?”
Liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America, which first wrote about the planned conference and its subsequent cancellation, said it was the third time this year VDare had an event canceled after Media Matters spotlighted its views, either in a public post or by privately contacting the venue.
Often the venues were unaware of VDare’s ideology and the risk of security problems should there be a public backlash to the group’s event, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in an interview. He cited the death of an anti-hate protester at a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer.
“The reason we’re reaching out is not to attack the venue, obviously,” he said. “But especially in the wake of Charlottesville, it’s important they have some awareness” of the risks.
In a Friday blog post on VDare’s website, Brimelow said he had just received an email about the canceled Tucson conference. He noted, “Our contract specifies substantial monetary damages in the event of a cancellation.”
British-born Brimelow is the founder of the Center for American Unity, which launched VDare.com in 1999. The group says it fights to keep “America American” and calls diversity a “vulnerability.”
VDare’s mission statement says it promotes “education on two main issues: first, the unsustainability of current U.S. immigration policy and second, the ‘National Question,’ which is the viability of the U.S. as a nation-state.”
A recent post on VDare’s website compares Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was diagnosed with a brain cancer this summer, to a “dying venomous snake” following McCain’s recent speech condemning the turn towards “spurious nationalism” in the U.S.
Media Matters is now devoting more time to monitoring hate groups’ efforts to “sanitize” their message and organize conferences that help normalize their extreme views, Carusone said.
Extremist groups are strategically downplaying the racist or discriminatory components of their ideology to gain traction in mainstream America, he said.
“They’ve been emboldened lately. They’ve never been this vocal,” he said. “So much of their ideology is seeping into the larger conservative echo chamber. They can muddy the waters a little bit so when you criticize them, it becomes a left-right partisan fight.”