Donald Trump has invited personalities from across the right-wing internet to the White House on Thursday for a “Social Media Summit,” but the event is causing his administration headaches even before it begins.
So far, the summit has stirred up resentments among pro-Trump personalities who were never invited to the party, and one invitee has been disinvited over an anti-Semitic cartoon—raising questions for the White House about why he was invited in the first place.
The White House hasn’t released a public list of attendees for the Thursday afternoon event, but a number of pro-Trump personalities have posted invitations on Twitter. They include Ali Alexander, a right-wing operative pushing a smear that Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) isn’t really “an American Black,” a pro-Trump “memesmith” who goes by the screenname “@CarpeDonktum,” and blogger Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit blog frequently promotes hoaxes.
The invitee list also includes more traditional White House visitors, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and representatives from campus conservative group Turning Point USA and conservative YouTube channel PragerU. In an Instagram post, Turning Point executive Benny Johnson promised to use the conference to give Trump “dank meme ideas.”
Neither Facebook or Twitter are reportedly attending the summit, suggesting that the event will mainly feature conservative allegations that the social media giants are biased against them.
Notably, the group so far doesn’t appear to include anyone who has actually been banned from major social platforms, even though those bans have played a significant role in driving accusations on the right that the social giants are biased. Pro-Trump figures like anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys men’s group founder Gavin McInnes, for example, don’t appear to have been invited.
That fact hasn’t been lost on fringe Trump supporters. In a livestream from Washington, D.C., InfoWars reporter and Jones lieutenant Owen Shroyer raged that no one from InfoWars was invited to the event, while people who hadn’t been banned were.
Shroyer declared that the event was an “abortion of truth” and compared the invitees to dogs getting a bone and a pat on the head.
“The people that are actually getting censored get ignored,” Shroyer said. “Isn’t that funny?”
Jones protégé Paul Joseph Watson weighed in on the summit too, asking why no figures who have faced total social media bans were invited.
“Have any of the people who got invited to the social media summit actually been censored by social media?” Watson tweeted.
White House officials such as social media director Dan Scavino, a top Trump confidant and longtime aide, have taken the lead on forming the summit’s agenda and assembling its eclectic guest list, according to two people familiar with the process. Scavino, who is adept at navigating the convoluted meme culture of the pro-Trump internet, keeps tabs on the work of many Trump-loving social media personalities, and will often flag their work directly to the president, who often reacts with an amused smirk or chuckle, the sources said.
But those working in the Trump White House say that, when it came time to decide whether to include hypercontroversial right-wing figures like Loomer or Jones, whose show Trump has appeared on, officials generally saw it as a painfully easy choice, even if that choice resulted in some hurt feelings.
“What benefit would it be to anyone if Laura Loomer were in the same room with the president?” a senior Trump administration official familiar with the planning told The Daily Beast. “Why on earth would we do that? We aren’t that stupid. Come on.”
Loomer and other pro-Trump personalities have raged about the summit on Telegram, a Russian messaging app she and other banned personalities have resorted to using after being kicked off Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
“It’s just absolutely disgusting how poorly this summit was planned and how blatant the act was to keep banned individuals out,” Loomer wrote in a Telegram post. “I cannot believe that every single banned person was out of the summit.”
The summit has inspired more resentments in the cutthroat world of right-wing media, with even more mainstream pro-Trump figures who think they should have been invited to the meeting left feeling snubbed. For many, an invite to the White House summit would be the equivalent to an official Trump endorsement, making them wonder why they were left out.
Brandon Straka, a gay hair stylist whose “#Walkaway” campaign to convince traditionally Democratic voting groups to leave the party went viral on the right last year, fumed when The Daily Beast asked him why he hadn’t been invited to the summit.
“I mean, I only had the most viral video of the conservative movement last year and started a massive movement all on social media,” Straka wrote in a text message accompanied by a shrugging emoji man. “But- ummm, guess that’s not a big deal??”
A number of fringe figures have made it onto the invite list, according to social media posts. Bill Mitchell, a prominent Trump superfan and online video personality, has claimed to be invited, despite promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory that posits that Trump is about to arrest high-ranking Democratic pedophiles and cannibals. Singer Joy Villa, who wore QAnon earrings to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, said Wednesday that she’s also been invited.
QAnon believers are obsessed with asking Trump to confirm their conspiracy in person. Given the chance to do just that on Thursday, though, Mitchell declined to take the opportunity and ask Trump about QAnon.
“Of course not,” Mitchell told The Daily Beast. “This is about social media bias, not Q.”
Critics in the fractious world of right-wing internet personalities said that most invitees were either establishment picks or too safe. Lucian Wintrich, a former Gateway Pundit writer who organized a raucous “Twinks for Trump” event during the 2016 campaign, declared invitees like Mitchell “boring [as fuck].”
“Gimme a break,” Wintrich told The Daily Beast.
But one would-be invitee has already proved too controversial even for Trump’s White House. Organizers initially invited pro-Trump cartoonist Ben Garrison, a prolific illustrator whose cartoons, which invariably depict a muscular Trump defeating his foes, frequently go viral on the right-wing internet. But after Garrison posted his invite on Twitter, critics pointed out that Garrison once created an anti-Semitic cartoon that featured a billionaire Democratic financier and the Rothschild family controlling American political figures.
Facing pressure over the Garrison invite, the White House disinvited Garrison, Politico reported. In a statement on Thursday, Garrison denied being anti-Semitic and said he was “disappointed” that the White House made his rescinded invitation public. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on Garrison’s invitation.
In a classic Trump move, Garrison blames the controversy on “fake news.” Even if he can’t visit the White House on Thursday, though, Garrison might get one thing out of it. Garrison tells The Daily Beast he’s considering making a cartoon about his thwarted White House visit.