A convicted sex offender manned a booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as featured speakers told the crowd it was conservatives’ duty to protect children from the threat of “transgenderism” and “sexualization.”
Daryl Brooks manned a booth at CPAC to sell his book Welcome to America: How Cultural Marxism is Slowly Destroying America alongside his co-author, Stephen Martino. The book warns of “cultural Marxism,” a common boogeyman among the conservative and hard-right movements.
A court convicted Brooks of masturbating in public in 1995, The Philadelphia Tribune reported. He was also convicted for exposing himself to two minors in New Jersey in 1998, according to The Times of Trenton. Brooks does not appear in either state’s state sex-offender registry.
Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.
When asked why Brooks does not appear in Pennsylvania’s registry, a representative of the Pennsylvania State Police told Hatewatch that when the law went into effect in 1996, all registrants were to remain on public databases for 10 years. The law changed in July 2000 to make some registrations permanent. But it “depends on the situation,” and some registrants may be removed in a given time period, the representative said. Hatewatch was unable to reach the New Jersey attorney general’s office or state police to ask similar questions.
CPAC did not respond to a request for comment.
CPAC featured anti-trans speakers who referenced a hard-right trend of falsely portraying LGBTQ people as a threat to children. Michael J. Knowles, a Daily Wire host, said “transgenderism” must be removed from public life.
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said conservatives should “reject” the “demonic assault” on U.S. children, referencing transgender equality. Former Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said Democrats support pedophiles teaching children. Gabbard left the Democratic Party in October 2022.
A representative for Gabbard said she had “never heard of” Brooks. Knowles and Judicial Watch did not respond to requests for comment.
Brooks appears to have entered mainstream conservative circles in 2020. That year, former President Donald Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani called Brooks as his first witness to allege voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
In March 2022, Michael Heise, the chairperson of the far-right Mises Caucus (MC) that won control of the Libertarian Party last May, nominated Brooks for the LP candidate for Pennsylvania governor. LP members told Hatewatch that Brooks’ nomination was rescinded because he is not a resident of Pennsylvania.
The LP has grown closer to the GOP under MC leadership. Dave Smith, a comedian many believe will be the MC nominee for the LP presidential candidate, endorsed far-right Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters in October 2022.
Fissures and controversies struck the conservative movement in the months before the convention, and CPAC 2023 appeared to have fewer attendees than previous years.
CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp faces accusations he sexually assaulted a male staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign this past January.
Schlapp has denied the allegations.
Former Vice President Mike Pence declined an invitation to the event but did not give a reason, ABC News reported. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had events scheduled in Texas during CPAC. Both are possible presidential contenders and challengers to former President Donald Trump.
FOX News barely featured CPAC on its broadcast. Trump, the favorite candidate of CPAC attendees, has not appeared on the channel since he announced his re-election campaign in November. Trump ally Steve Bannon lambasted the network during his CPAC speech.
Bannon said Trump supporters have decided that FOX News founder Rupert Murdoch is “not going to have a network, because we’re going to fight you every step of the way.”
However, some FOX News Channel (FNC) hosts still appeared at CPAC. Mark Levin, a conservative radio personality and host of FNC’s “Life, Liberty & Levin,” delivered an address alongside his wife, Julie Prince.
During his address, Levin asked if anyone could name a Democrat who opposes the “sexualization of five-year-olds.”
Levin did not respond to a request for comment as to whether he knew of Brooks’ booth at CPAC.
Photo illustration by SPLC
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to reflect comments from a representative for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.