This weekend brought the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual rightwing gathering of Republican activists and politicians, in what was billed as “the largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world”. “That’s if you don’t count their last gathering,” joked Stephen Colbert over footage of rioters storming the Capitol on 6 January.
The weekend’s lineup included “a bunch of people who spread the big lie that led to that insurrection,” such the Texas senator Ted Cruz, Missouri senator Josh Hawley, and Arizona congressman Paul Gosar – a “murderers’ row of people who were OK with Mike Pence being murdered”, said the Late Show host.
The main event of the weekend, however, was the former president himself, who recycled his usual hits of baseless accusations, hinted at a potential run in 2024, and promised the audience he would not start a third political party. “Of course he isn’t going to start a new political party – he already owns one!” Colbert said. “These people worship the ground he walks on.”
Case in point: one of the conference’s main photo-op attractions was a giant golden statue of the former president. “Oh, nothing says the party of Christian values like worshipping a golden idol,” Colbert said.
Trump rambled for nearly an hour and a half – “he said a lot of things, and some of it was stupid, and the rest was dangerous,” Colbert explained, but refused to air the clips “because the country needs to move on, and frankly, I just don’t care any more”.
It’s been nearly a year since most of America shut down for the coronavirus pandemic under Trump’s watch, a year in which more than 500,000 Americans have died from Covid. And “if you watched CPAC this weekend, it was clear that the ghouls who either ignored, dismissed or actively abetted that misery and suffering have learned absolutely nothing,” said Seth Meyers on Monday’s Late Night.
Several GOP figures mocked public health officials at the conference, such as the South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, who said “Dr Fauci is wrong a lot”.
“We’re going to wear masks for the next 300 years,” exaggerated Ted Cruz in a parody of health advice.
“No one wants to hear your whiny little rightwing standup act,” Meyers said to Cruz. “You sound like a 50-year-old accountant trying comedy to distract yourself from your divorce – ‘this crowd is electric, which is nice because my state doesn’t have electricity.’
“Cruz really did start out his smarmy little tirade with a joke about the firestorm he caused when he fled to a luxury resort in Cancún as his constituents were freezing to death in an unprecedented blackout,” Meyers continued, replaying the senator’s attempt to make light of the PR disaster: “I gotta say: Orlando is awesome! It’s not as nice as Cancún …”
“Oh, you are ice cold,” Meyers retorted. “Sorry, I meant to say your constituents are ice cold because they didn’t have heat for a week, but good zinger.”
On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah also recapped the conservative conference. “The star of the weekend was none other than Donald Jobless Trump,” he said. “And for anyone wondering if Trump is still worshipped by his people,” then look no further than the conference’s large gold statue of the ex-president.
“Holy shit, guys, did you see that thing?” Noah said, cracking up. “I get it, it’s a golden idol and blasphemous and all of that, blah, blah, blah, but guys, why is he wearing flip flops and holding a magic wand? Do you know how hard it is to make Donald Trump look weirder than he already is?
“It doesn’t even look like Trump – it looks like King Midas dry-humped a Bob’s Big Boy,” he added.
As for his speech, Trump once again doubled down on his baseless election fraud claims as the crowd chanted: “You won!”
“I watched CPAC and Wandavision this weekend, and I’m not sure which characters are living in a more warped reality,” Noah joked.
And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel tore into Trump’s speech, which started with a swipe at the current, legitimate president: “Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” said Trump.
“So says the president who spent his first month arguing over crowd size, ordering a Muslim ban, rage-tweeting the Women’s March, firing Sally Yates, mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger for ratings on The Apprentice, and golfing six times,” Kimmel responded.
The speech was “kind of like that show Dr Pimple Popper”, Kimmel added. “All this disgusting stuff keeps coming out, and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, when is this gonna end?’ But until it does, you can’t look away. That’s him, that’s Donald Trump.”
Trump also said the supreme court didn’t have the “guts or courage” to overturn the election. “That’s good, the draft dodger who can’t open his Diet Coke is talking about guts and courage,” joked Kimmel.