Hyatt Hotels Corp called symbols of hate "abhorrent" on Sunday after the design of a stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference at one of its hotels drew comparisons to a Norse rune used by Nazis during World War Two.
High-profile Republicans including former President Donald Trump were attending the four-day event in Orlando, Florida, as conflict rages between Trump allies and establishment politicians trying to distance the party from him.
A photo of the CPAC stage went viral on social media on Saturday, with thousands of Twitter users sharing posts comparing its distinctive design to an othala rune, one of many ancient European symbols that Nazis adopted to "reconstruct a mythic 'Aryan' past," according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The ceiling of the conference room featured a lighting display in the same shape as the stage, according to Reuters photographs.
Hyatt said all aspects of conference logistics, including the stage design, were managed by the American Conservative Union, which organized the conference.
The comparisons were "outrageous and slanderous," Matt Schlapp, American Conservative Union chair, said in a Twitter post on Saturday. He added the organization had a "long standing commitment to the Jewish community" and that the conference featured several Jewish speakers.
"With CPAC's denial of any intentional connection to hate symbols and our concerns over the safety of guests and colleagues in what could have been a disruptive situation, we allowed the event to continue", Hyatt said late on Sunday.
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Hyatt added that "colleagues occasionally faced hostility from attendees" at the conference when attendees were reminded to wear masks and socially distance. Hyatt also said it was "extremely disappointed by the disrespect many individuals involved in the event showed to our colleagues".
In its statement on Sunday, Hyatt said: "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."
Some Trump supporters who launched a deadly attack against the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 carried Confederate flags, which many Americans see as a symbol of oppression and slavery. Extremism experts said some of the rioters were members of white nationalist groups.
Trump's presence has dominated this year's CPAC, with his supporters parading a larger-than-life golden statue of the former president through the lobby of the hotel, according to a video posted on social media.
Trump hinted on Sunday at a possible presidential run in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.