Not long ago, the names on the marquee would have been right at home on Fox News: Stephen K. Bannon, Tucker Carlson and Roger J. Stone Jr.
But Fox News fired Mr. Carlson three months ago, and Mr. Bannon, Mr. Stone and a raucous pro-Trump crowd at the Turning Point Action Conference were eager to fire back at the conservative network, arguing that it was not supportive enough. by former President Donald J. Trump as he seeks to regain the office he lost in 2020.
At the two-day meeting, with thousands of pro-Trump activists attending this weekend in South Florida, jeers flew Sunday at the mention of Rupert Murdoch, the Fox media, as well as speaker Kevin McCarthy.
And after Mr. Trump spoke to this crowd on Saturday, any of his Republican rivals for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination took the stage at their own peril.
In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist who was found guilty of contempt of Congress, suggested that Mr. Murdoch was using Fox News to single out Republican governors from battleground states to undermine the candidacy of mr trump He cited Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Mr. Trump’s main rival in the party, who trails him by approximately 30 percentage points in national polls, as a cautionary tale.
“Come on down,” Mr. Bannon said. “Bring it on because we will destroy you just like we destroyed DeSantis.”
Mr Bannon – the host of a right-wing podcast he has used to promote election falsehoods and conspiracy theories – criticized Fox News for its lack of coverage of the pro-Trump conclave and called Mr Trump’s political battles “jihad”. “
“Donald Trump is our instrument for revenge,” he said.
While Fox News did not carry the event on its main network, it did show conference speeches from Mr. Trump and the other Republican candidates on Fox Nation, its subscription streaming service. A spokeswoman for Fox Corporation declined to comment on Mr Murdoch’s behalf.
Two of Mr. Trump’s long-shot Republican opponents — Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas; and Francis X. Suarez, the mayor of Miami — experienced the fury of Mr. Trump’s supporters firsthand on Sunday, when they were heckled and booed.
When Mr. Suarez, whom The Miami Herald reported how under FBI investigation in a corruption case, stepped to the microphone, some people in the crowd shouted “traitor”.
He responded by mentioning his Cuban American heritage and saying that dissenting voices were welcome in America, unlike in the homeland of his ancestors.
“It’s good to have a little hate,” Mr. Suarez said. Later, he asked conservative activists to intervene in his campaign.
Mr. Hutchinson paused his remarks as the crowd began chanting Mr. Trump’s name, and one of his biggest lines of applause came when he mentioned his successor in the Arkansas governor’s office: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s former press secretary in the White House.
Opposing cross-talk for much of his speech, Mr. Hutchinson said Republicans must have respect for people with different opinions.
At the conference, attendees could attach sticky notes to cutouts of the Republican candidates’ heads.
A man placed one with a homophobic slur in the face of Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s former vice president. Later, it appeared to have been removed. But a number of stickers branding Mr Pence a “traitor” for refusing to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, covered his face.
On a clipping of Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Mr Trump’s United Nations ambassador, one sticky note said: “Woman in Politics? Scream.”
At the event’s peak on Saturday, about 6,000 people packed the Palm Beach County Convention Center to hear Mr. Trump speak for nearly 100 minutes. Mr. Carlson ruminated on his firing from Fox News in April.
In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Stone, who had a felony conviction pardoned by Mr. Trump, claimed that federal prosecutors had offered him a deal to shake up dirt implicating Mr. Trump in a wrongdoing and recalled a pre-dawn raid by the FBI at his home in South Florida in 2019 during which he was arrested.
“I said, ‘You can go to hell,'” he said.