Turning Point USA, a prominent right-wing youth group, hosted hundreds of guests indoors for it’s annual winter gala at President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach resort on Friday.
Most of the guests appeared to refuse to wear masks, despite the County’s order requiring facial coverings inside businesses and establishments.
The group held a 2,000-person indoor event on Saturday night, which county officials said it oversold by 500-600 tickets, locking out hundreds of attendees.
Several of TPUSA’s prominent GOP speakers ridiculed mask-wearing and the policies governments have put in place to help stem the spread of COVID-19, which is spiking across the country.
Turning Point USA, a prominent right-wing youth group, hosted hundreds of guests indoors for it’s annual winter gala at President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach resort on Friday before holding a 2,000-person indoor event on Saturday night.
Many of the guests and speakers, which included high-profile White House officials, Republican elected officials, and right-wing activists, brazenly violated Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 mitigation orders, which mandate social distancing and mask-wearing in “all business and establishments” and the Centers for Disease Control and and Prevention’s federal guidelines. Photos showed waiters at the Mar-a-Lago dinner wearing face masks.
Prominent attendees at the weekend events included Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and Fox News host Laura Ingraham. The Friday night gala appeared to be largely mask-less, as COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across Florida and the rest of the country.
Dozens of guests posted photos on their public social media accounts of the events, where they posed maskless with speakers. Gabe Nies, a Nashville real estate agent, posted photos on Instagram of himself posing with McEnany, Lewandowski, Ingraham, Gaetz, and right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe. All of them were indoors, standing in close proximity, and not wearing masks.
In order to attend the events, guests had to sign a waiver agreeing to “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
“Each person has their own freedom and they need to exercise that responsibly … and that it is part of the spirit of this event,” TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet told Insider earlier this month of the group’s refusal to mandate masks at this year’s gala and four-day Student Action Summit.
This comes after TPUSA’s cofounder, Bill Montgomery, died of COVID-19 in late July at the age of 80.
Nearly 318,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Monday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. And new infections have reached new records in the US in recent days as health officials urge Americans to avoid gatherings, and to social distance and wear masks.
Hundreds of ticketed attendees at the first night of TPUSA’s summit on Saturday were barred from entering the Palm Beach convention center because the event had reached its 2,000-person capacity, according to a contract TPUSA signed with the convention center.
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker told the Palm Beach Post that TPUSA “oversold their contract capacity by 500 to 600 people,” who then gathered outside the convention center chanting, “let us in!”
A TPUSA spokesman said the group hadn’t oversold the event, but conceded that it had planned to send some attendees into overflow areas. Some of the guest speakers, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Trump Jr., spoke to ticketed attendees outside the event.
Trump Jr., whose girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle also spoke at the event, accused Palm Beach County of “trying to make it difficult” for TPUSA to hold its event because the county is “not exactly a conservative place.”
The group hosted another packed event, hosted by Trump’s younger son, Eric, and his wife Lara, on Sunday night.
A spokesman for TPUSA didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Charlie Kirk, the 27-year-old leader of the pro-Trump group, has questioned mask-wearing as a form of disease mitigation, advocated for Americans to ignore policies designed to stem the spread of the virus, and promoted a slew of conspiracy theories about the virus.
“This event represents freedom,” Kirk said during his remarks on Saturday, according to the Palm Beach Post. “That you’re not going to lock us down and shut us up any longer.”
Sen. Rand Paul, who has aggressively opposed science-based virus mitigation policies, ridiculed mask-wearing during his speech, comparing it to wearing “underwear over your face.”
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