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How A Nazi Symbol At CPAC Turned Into A Massive Hyatt Public Relations Disaster

CPAC 2021 was held in the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In a highly unusual step for a major hotel group, Hyatt felt compelled to issue multiple news releases rejecting Nazi symbolism after a politically charged conference was held in one of its hotels.

One of the year’s marquee events on the GOP calendar, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend. Speakers included high-profile Republicans including former President Donald Trump, who repeated false claims that he won the 2020 election.

Early on in the three-day event, outrage erupted over the event’s stage design, which drew comparisons to a Norse rune used by Nazis during World War II. A photo of the CPAC stage went viral as thousands of social media users shared posts comparing its distinctive design to an othala rune.

Following World War II, the symbol was adopted by Nazis in an “attempt to reconstruct a mythic ‘Aryan’ past,’” according to the Anti-Defamation League. “Today, it is commonly seen in tattoo form, on flags or banners, as part of group logos, and elsewhere.”

By Saturday afternoon, there had been nearly 100,000 tweets comparing the CPAC stage to the Nazi symbol, as the #boycottHYATT hashtag exploded across Twitter and other platforms.

Hyatt quickly went into damage control, attempting at first to frame the issue as one of free speech. Journalist Nancy Levine tweeted out a Hyatt statement touting the company’s responsibility to provide an inclusive environment for everyone. “We believe in the right of individuals and organizations to peacefully express their views, independent of the degree to which the perspectives of those hosting meetings and events at our hotels align with ours,” said a company spokesperson.

Social media users made it clear they believed Hyatt had missed the point. “A platform for hate is not inclusive, Hyatt,” tweeted one user. “A platform to spread the Big Lie that spawned a violent insurrection and is now fomenting another threatened one is not inclusive.”

CPAC organizers, meanwhile, disavowed any similarity between the stage design and Nazism. American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp tweeted that such allegations were “outrageous and slanderous,” noting that the conference included several Jewish speakers.

Still, many social media users continued to make an association between CPAC, Hyatt and Nazism. One Twitter user tweeted, “‘Seig Heil for Hyatt’ sounds like their new catchy slogan.” Scores of memes popped up that blended the othala rune with the Hyatt logo, sometimes adding a tag line such as, “Hyatt: We’re OK with Nazis.”

Yesterday, days into the PR crisis, Hyatt issued the first of two public news releases using tough verbage and making it clear that the public’s vitriol should be directed at CPAC organizers, not Hyatt.

“We take the concern raised about the prospect of symbols of hate being included in the stage design at CPAC 2021 very seriously as all such symbols are abhorrent and unequivocally counter to our values as a company,” read Hyatt’s short statement. “The CPAC 2021 event is hosted and managed by the American Conservative Union that manages all aspects of event logistics, including the stage design and aesthetics. We discussed directly with ACU leadership who told us that any resemblance to a symbol of hate is unintentional. We will continue to stay in dialogue with event organizers regarding our deep concerns. Any further questions can be directed to CPAC.”

One such statement from a national hotel brand would be remarkable enough, but later that day, Hyatt issued a second, much longer news release. This time, Hyatt’s main beef was the refusal of many CPAC attendees to adhere to the hotel’s policy on wearing face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our colleagues worked tirelessly to support this event while enforcing Hyatt’s safety policies,” said the release. “At times, these efforts included reminding attendees to wear masks and socially distance, even while colleagues occasionally faced hostility from attendees who did not support our policies.”

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