Republicans at CPAC 'Living in an Alternate Reality,' Says Event's Former Leader

Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, who was also once the chair of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), criticized the 2021 edition of the conference, saying that the attending Republicans were "living in an alternate reality."

In an interview with CNN, Edwards, who left the Republican Party following the January 6 Capitol insurrection, said the conference has lost sight of the principles "conservative or otherwise" it once operated on, with the attention shifting to former President Donald Trump.

"The people at CPAC are living in an alternate reality in which facts don't matter. The Constitution doesn't matter. They have no principle except whatever their leader says," he said.

Earlier in the interview, after being asked about the bizarre golden Trump statue, Edwards likened the conference and its obsession with the former president to a cult, due to Trump's influence.

"The party seems now to be completely following the lead of one man wherever he goes, which is the definition of a cult. The party's views that have matured over years and years are out the window. Now, all that matters is 'Trump is for this; we're for this,' and that includes denying truth, denying fact, denying reality," he said.

After footage that showed Missouri Senator Josh Hawley boasting about objecting to certify the election results at CPAC, Edwards suggested that it appeared that Hawley was positioning himself for a presidential run, where he would gain traction with Trump supporters for challenging the results—assuming that Trump will not seek the presidency again in 2024.

Following a clip of the current CPAC chair, Matt Schlapp, speaking about election fraud, Edwards also said the conference is unrecognizable from when he was the chair. He said the values the conference prioritized during his tenure were not displayed in the current iteration.

"When I was head of CPAC, it was a group that was based on conservative principles. We were strong supporters of the Constitution. We believed in free elections. We believed in democracy. These people don't believe in any of those things. They're no different than the people who flock to other totalitarian leaders in other countries," he said.

Scheduled to appear at CPAC Saturday include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Former President Donald Trump is slated to speak at the conference Sunday.

Newsweek reached out to CPAC and the American Conservative Union for comment.

CPAC 2021
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty