Design firm: Actually, we designed CPAC's "Nazi symbol" stage, not the ACU

For cripes sake. The “Nazi symbol” freakout raged for two full days online and elicited no fewer than three increasingly panicky press releases from Hyatt Hotels distancing itself from CPAC, the last of which tried to appease paranoid liberals by noting that some people involved in the event had been rude to Hyatt staff. Message: We don’t like them any more than you do.

“Had we initially recognized the potential connections to hate symbolism, we would have proactively addressed it prior to commencement of the event,” Hyatt said a few days ago, adding, “We do not always agree with or share the same values as groups hosting meetings and events at our hotels.” Will the company be issuing a new release today absolving the American Conservative Union from blame for the controversy now that we know it had nothing to do with the stage design?

And will it explain why it didn’t contact the set designer, Design Foundry, first to find out who was responsible for the design before it publicly threw one of its clients under the bus?

According to the terms of the contract signed with Design Foundry, and shared with the Forward, the ACU approved the design but had no rights to change the design or dismantle the stage. “The designs, renderings, drawings, specifications, materials and other documents used or created as part of the proposal are owned by Design Foundry,” the contract reads. Design Foundry has worked with CPAC for several years and has provided services to MSNBC and major corporations – including Google, Citibank and Target.

Ian Walters, director of communications for the ACU and CPAC, told the Forward on Tuesday that the design firm “provided several options for us to choose from and what we ended up with was the most workable of the options they submitted.”

“ACU and CPAC have no interest in promoting antisemitism from our stage, whether it’s what happens on the stage or the design of the stage itself,” Walters added. “It’s clear that the company we retained designed a stage that has become an unwelcome distraction. As a result, we will not be using that company’s services going forward at future events.”

Design Foundry insists that it had no idea the stage resembled a Nazi rune and that the design was based only an efficient use of the space provided by Hyatt. Which is perfectly plausible: The rune’s shape is obscure, not something I’d ever seen prior to a week ago, and Design Foundry’s client list doesn’t smack of Nazi sympathies. You can see some examples of their work here. They designed the set for a celebration of the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth attended by Barack Obama as well as staging for MSNBC, Google, National Geographic, Target, Citibank, and the liberal magazine The Atlantic. They’re a thoroughly mainstream firm, not one that would smash their brand to indulge in a little cryptic fascist symbolism:

As others have noted online today, if you check the FEC’s database for donations by employees of Design Foundry, you’ll find that nearly every cent has gone to left-wing outfits. Most contributions are penny-ante but one person donated several thousand dollars to Biden’s campaign and another dropped two grand on Democrat Sara Gideon’s failed Senate bid against Susan Collins. If there were any political undertones to the stage design rather than a simple “this shape looks clean and elegant” mindset then it was an act of sabotage by a firm whose executives appear to disagree with the ACU ideologically.

But I strongly doubt that. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

In hindsight, this episode seems like a fleeting left-wing dabble in QAnon logic, in which there are no coincidences and even the most innocent synchronicities can take on sinister meaning. I’ll leave you with this tweet making the same point and illustrating it with a satirical example.