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Design firm takes responsibility for CPAC stage controversy

The company that was hired to set up the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida last weekend has taken full responsibility for the design of the stage that resembled a Nazi insignia.

In an exclusive statement to the Forward on Tuesday evening, Design Foundry, a stage design firm based in Hyattsville, Maryland, said it “had no idea that the design resembled any symbol, nor was there any intention to create something that did.” The organizers of CPAC have announced that it will not use the firm for future events.

Images of the CPAC main stage — which featured Donald Trump’s first post-presidency speech on Sunday — went viral online as observers noted its resemblance to the Odal or Othala Rune, a symbol emblazoned on Nazi uniforms. After the conclusion of the event, Hyatt Hotels released a statement saying that it had addressed the concerns with the conference organizers and denounced the use of such symbols as “abhorrent.”

Design Foundry said that the American Conservative Union approved the stage design, which was “intended to provide the best use of space, given the constraints of the ballroom and social distancing requirements.”

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 said it was “saddened and horrified at the accusations that this was a deliberate act. Design Foundry denounces all hate speech and acts of racism, prejudice, or bigotry in all forms.”

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