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Speakers pull out of prominent activist group’s pro-Christian nationalist conference

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Speakers pull out of prominent activist group’s pro-Christian nationalist conference

Jun 13, 2024 | 3:39 pm ET
By Robert Downen Kayla Guo Juan Salinas II
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Speakers, venue pull out of prominent activist group’s pro-Christian nationalist conference
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True Texas Project founder Julie McCarty, listens to Fran Rhodes, president of the organization, as she speaks to a crowd during the Saturday closing event of TEXITCon in Waco, on Nov. 11, 2023. Rhodes urged the crowd to get involved in the organization so that they could teach and educate the next generations about Texas politics and activism. (Evan L'Roy for The Texas Tribune)

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Multiple speakers and a venue pulled out of a prominent Texas activist group’s July conference after The Texas Tribune reported on its plans to amplify white nationalist figures and rhetoric.

Billed as the 15th anniversary celebration for True Texas Project, the conference agenda claims that there is a “war on white America,” and urges attendees to embrace once-fringe ideologies such as Christian nationalism or the Great Replacement Theory, which claims that there is an intentional, often Jewish-driven, effort to destroy white people through immigration, interracial marriage or the LGBTQ+ community.

On Wednesday, the Tribune reported that the conference lineup features figures with ties to antisemites and extremists, including Paul Gottfried, a far-right author who mentored neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. Since then, at least three of the 12 listed speakers have said they will no longer partake in the event, two of whom said they were unaware of the themes and lineup when they agreed to participate.

“I was unaware of the racialist themes of the conference and language of the other sessions related to it until the past couple of days,” Todd Bensman, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Tribune on Thursday. “I categorically reject white replacement theory and never write or speak about it. I’m not interested in any of that stuff.”

Prominent GOP donor and former state Sen. Don Huffines, who was listed as a speaker, condemned the conference Wednesday, saying it is a “dumb and inaccurate way to promote the Republican agenda” and that he “was never given a lineup of speakers or topics.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation confirmed Thursday that Ammon Blair, a senior fellow who focuses on immigration, had also pulled out of the event.

The conference prompted a wave of condemnations this week. “Every good and [decent] and honorable person associated with this event should back out,” Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak wrote on X. “Right now. This moment.”

The convention invitation said the two-day event would be held at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The venue issued a statement Wednesday saying the event would not be held there, and that it "rejects all forms of hate speech, discrimination, or bigotry."

But after a lawyer for True Texas Project went to the City of Fort Worth, which owns the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, city officials ordered the venue's management on Friday to reinstate the event and reverse its cancellation.

"WE WON!!!" True Texas Project founder Julie McCarty posted on social media on Friday.

Botanic Garden CEO Patrick Newman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

McCarty previously blamed the backlash on “woke attacks” by the Tribune to “silence TTP and prevent us from advancing the grassroots movement across Texas.” McCarty and True Texas Project have not responded to repeated requests for comment about the event since Friday.

True Texas Project is a key part of a powerful political network that West Texas oil tycoons, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks have used to push the state GOP and Legislature to adopt their hardline opposition to immigration, LGBTQ+ rights and public education. Dunn and Wilks are by far the biggest donors to the Republican Party of Texas, and have used their influence to purge the party of more moderate lawmakers and survive a high-profile scandal last year over racists and antisemites employed by groups they fund.

Formerly known as the NE Tarrant Tea Party, True Texas Project was crucial in the rise of Texas’ ultraconservative movement throughout the 2010s. It rebranded after McCarty wrote on social media that she sympathized with the gunman who murdered 23 Hispanic people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 — one of many mass shooters who have been motivated by a belief in Great Replacement Theory.

“I don’t condone the actions, but I certainly understand where they came from,” she wrote.

“You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back," responded her husband, Fred McCarty, who is also a True Texas Project leader.

Those comments have not prevented the group from maintaining close relationships with prominent Republican elected officials, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, former Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi and a slate of current and presumptive lawmakers who are primarily funded by Dunn and Wilks.

"I know that the True Texas Project gets things done and I need each and every one of you to continue to fight for the conservative principles we all stand for,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said of the group in November.

The upcoming conference includes multiple sessions that extremism experts said were concerning because they advanced once-fringe claims about a “war on white America” or a Democratic effort to “rid the earth of the white race.”

“It’s absolutely vital we remember that when they say ‘white supremacy’ or ‘white nationalism’ or whatever the most recent scare phrase is, they literally just mean your heritage and historical way of life,” reads the description for a session on “Multiculturalism & The War on White America.” “It’s a culture war, simple as that. Stop apologizing. Stop backing down. Start fighting back.”

The agenda for the event also claims that “forced multiculturalism” and immigration are part of a global plot that has undermined American Christianity, and that xenophobia is “an imaginary social pathology” and term that has been used to discourage “love of one’s own people.” It also features a session that seeks to downplay the antisemitism and racism at the core of Great Replacement Theory.

Kayla Guo and Juan Salinas II contributed to this story.


Just in: Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming; U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania; and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt will take the stage at The Texas Tribune Festival, Sept. 5–7 in downtown Austin. Buy tickets today!