From the February 23 edition of CNN Newroom:
POPPY HARLOW (HOST): Matt, let me begin with some reporting I want to get your take on out of The Daily Beast this morning. They're reporting some conservative group leaders are very upset that you have Steve Bannon coming to speak at CPAC because of his embrace of the “alt-right.” They feel like this is a hijacking of their party. Here's what a board member of your own group, the American Conservative Union, told The Daily Beast: “The revolution is here, and it's bloody, man. The craziest elements of the party have managed to get every single thing they wanted over the past year.” So what do you say to those folks who say the “alt-right” is hijacking your party?
MATT SCHLAPP: Well, Poppy, you know me, I'm not crazy. I am conservative. And when you guys -- I appreciate you very much, the fact that you're covering CPAC. It's an important moment. Literally this morning, we're going to have the executive director of this organization, my organization, give a speech that's called “The alt-right, it ain't right.” The “alt-right” has no role in the conservative movement. We criticize it often. It doesn't always get covered correctly, but I'm glad you asked the question because racism is not a conservative function. Racism is a function of hatred, and it has no role here.
HARLOW: Then why did you invite Milo Yiannopoulos, someone who has said so many misogynistic things, to speak at the conference and only canceled his appearance there after he resigned from Breitbart after seeming to condone sex between young boys and old men? I mean just to throw up some of the headlines here from what he's written and what he's said: “There's No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews”; “Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber, It's Time To Get Back In The Closet”; “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?” If that has no place in the movement, then why'd you have him signed up to speak until just earlier this week?
SCHLAPP: Well, that's why we invite liberals and that's why we invite moderates. Yeah, most of our speakers will be conservative, but an invitation --
HARLOW: Yeah, but that's not answering my question, Matt. I'm saying if there's no room for this in the movement, if there's no room for it, why was he invited?
SCHLAPP: If you would just let me answer. We have plenty of people who aren't conservative who talk on our stage. An invitation to CPAC is not embracing everything they say.
HARLOW: So you're moderating this panel -- we're going to carry it live on CNN a little bit later today at the 1 pm eastern hour -- between Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. Are you going to ask them, specifically Bannon, about the role of the “alt-right” in your party? Because, as you know, he's one who has said before -- he's been very supportive of the “alt-right” movement, to say the least.
SCHLAPP: Yeah, I think there's a misconception there. I know Steve Bannon well. He is a good man, he is not a racist. Yes, the conservative movement and voices in the conservative movement are changing. But I do not believe that he is associated with the “alt-right” at all. And I think every topic is fair game for Reince and Steve. And I'm still thinking of questions, Poppy, so text me any suggestions you have.
HARLOW: I mean Steve Bannon has celebrated the “alt-right” movement. I'm not sure what you're talking about. He's been quoted as doing that just in a recent Mother Jones article in July at the RNC.
SCHLAPP: No, I believe Steve Bannon to be a good man. I don't believe that he has any racial hatred or anti-Semitism. I think these are ridiculous charges. I think that he's coming to CPAC -- I think every question's fair game. I think you should have him on your show and ask him these questions.