Inside the Pro-Trump Conference Where COVID Denial and Calls to Kill Political Enemies Reign

The Daily Beast
·3 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, this past weekend, thousands gathered at the Health and Freedom Conference—maskless, of course—to bask in the glow of Trumpworld luminaries and scheduled speakers such as pillow magnate Mike Lindell, MAGA attorney Lin Wood, and the actor who played Jesus Christ in the Mel Gibson movie. The crowd was there to reaffirm their fealty to twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, the QAnon conspiracy theory, coronavirus denialism, their religious faith, and the belief that their high-profile political enemies deserve to be executed.

And Fever Dreams co-host Will Sommer was on the ground in Tulsa to take it all in.

“[It was] sort of a confluence of COVID denialism, QAnon, evangelical Christianity, all this kind of stuff, gathering outside of Tulsa, 4,500 people,” Sommer told co-host Asawin Suebsaeng on this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast. “They were ready to throw down and talk about how much they love both Trump and QAnon, no masks, [of course]… I didn’t see a single mask... I, too, had to go sans mask to fit in.”

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There were, naturally, “a lot of people who are big deals in Trumpism. I mean, it was Lin Wood, and Michael Flynn, and Sidney Powell. Jim Caviezel, who you may remember from The Passion of the Christ,” Sommer said. “These were people who were fringe in a way, but who still have a lot of sway in the Republican Party… Look, the chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party was at this thing.”

According to Sommer, one of Wood’s addresses to the audience included a moment when he blathered on about “people [who] are torturing children,” and how “the punishment for treason is a firing squad”—at which point the crowd of roughly “5,000 people just explode, like standing ovation, all this stuff. So, I mean, it was really something to see.”

Later in this Fever Dreams installment, Suebsaeng and Sommer welcome guest Sara Kenigsberg, a veteran video producer for the 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. On this episode, she opens up about what it was like when the Trump re-election campaign, conservative media, and MAGA icons aggressively went after her last summer… for her past tweets about pigs.

That’s right: Last summer, as the United States was engulfed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a tumultuous presidential race, a torpedoed economy, and mass protests, the Trump campaign found time to devote considerable messaging resources to denouncing a mid-level Biden 2020 official over her love of pigs, yoga, and adorable piglets.

Kenigsberg, who at that point had recently assumed the position as a producer on Biden’s presidential campaign, had shared a meme spreading the message of: “Please stop calling cops pigs. Pigs are highly intelligent and empathetic animals who would never racially profile you.”

It wasn’t long before MAGAland declared her a new public enemy, with the Trump campaign putting out multiple statements about her. Kenigsberg recalls what happened behind the scenes, as she and the Biden staff responded to these salvos, and the torrent of threats and hate mail that followed. “It was just such a ridiculous controversy when so many other important things were happening in the world,” she said. “It was really pathetic on the part of the Trump campaign.”

For more on this, as well as on Sommer’s dispatch from what Suebsaeng calls the misadventures in “the COVID and QAnon wilderness,” enjoy the rest of our latest episode.

Listen, and subscribe, to Fever Dreams on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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