The list of attendees at President Donald Trump’s social media summit reflected the wide-ranging nature of Trump’s supporters – a mixture of mainstream politicians and far-right provocateurs who’ve accused the social media companies of political bias against conservatives.
They included Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, lawmakers who have accused Twitter of censoring tweets or limiting their reach. At the event, Trump commended Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, for his proposal to strip tech companies of the legal immunity they have for liability for content posted by users.
Right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, was there and was singled out for praise by Trump. In 2017, a woman working with Project Veritas falsely told The Washington Post that Roy Moore, then the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, had impregnated her as a teenager in what was an apparent effort to discredit The Post’s reporting on Moore’s involvement with underage girls. The Post did not publish a story based on her account. Recently, Project Veritas has focused its activities on Google executives.
Trump also singled out Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and credited her with persuading him to pardon Scooter Libby, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney (Liz Cheney’s father) who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for revealing the name of an undercover CIA officer during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Also reportedly in attendance were two meme creators who met with the president recently. Known by their online handles @mad_liberals and @CarpeDonktum, the two have been frequently accused of violating social media rules. Others who were reportedly in attendance: Charlie Kirk, the executive director of Turning Point USA, Benny Johnson, TPUSA’s creative director and right-wing commentator Tim Pool, who’s made a name for himself on YouTube.
Trump gave special recognition to Diamond and Silk, the internet duo whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson. Trump singled them out as he touted once again his assertion that black unemployment is at its lowest rate in U.S. history. He then called them to the podium, where he embraced them as two of his most important supporters.
Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft, who has long been criticized for spreading conspiracy theories online, was there, as was Ali Alexander, who recently became notorious for questioning in an inflammatory tweet about whether Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., a Democratic presidential candidate, was actually an “American black.”
Political commentator Bill Mitchell, who hosts a daily show on the YourVoice America network and has promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter, tweeted ahead of Thursday’s White House summit that he expected the event to be “an exciting opportunity for top social media influencers to join and discuss ways to prevent censorship or our voices and perhaps add new platforms to increase our voice!”
Representatives from right-leaning PragerU and Blaze Media were at the event, as were Ed Molchany and Christian Robey of the conservative Media Research Center.
An attendee with mainstream credentials was Zac Moffatt, CEO of Targeted Victory, a right-leaning digital strategy and marketing firm. Moffatt was digital director for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Jessica Anderson, vice president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, was there as was Christian Ziegler, the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Trump also recognized several members of his Cabinet as being present, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Not in attendance was cartoonist Ben Garrison. The White House apparently rescinded his invitation to the event after critics accused him of using anti-Semitic tropes in his work.
The Washington Post’s Craig Timberg contributed to this report.