When Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, he can expect an unfriendly reception from many of the media and elected officials at the annual right-wing gathering. (Update: After this article was posted, Trump pulled out of his scheduled CPAC speech.) In interviews with Media Matters, CPAC attendees labeled the Republican front-runner a “problematic” non-conservative who is “waging a hostile takeover” of the Republican Party.
Trump's momentum toward the Republican nomination for president has sparked a civil war within the conservative movement, with many right-wing figures fighting with each other about the business magnate and his candidacy.
“I'm not a supporter. ... I will do everything I can to see that he is not the nominee,” syndicated radio host Dennis Prager, who is backing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), told Media Matters. “I would rather nominate someone who has a lifetime track record of the values I care about than someone who has none of the values I care about until the last few years.”
Dana Loesch, a veteran conservative commentator on Radio America and TheBlaze TV, also said she backs Cruz over Trump.
“I have concerns about his policies,” she explained. “I feel as though some of his polices and some of his answers are good, but he keeps going back to the well too often of government being the answer as opposed to the private sector. That's kind of where I have a concern. I don't like calling people the P word for women's genitalia.”
Loesch was among several CPAC attendees who questioned Trump's conservative beliefs, as well as his apparent flip-flopping on issues.
“I would not count myself as a supporter,” conservative radio talk show host Tim Constantine said about Trump. “The unknown factor is that what he said now is different from five or 10 years ago. Is he making a sale or is that his core belief? ... I don't see Donald Trump as a uniter.”
TheBlaze Radio Network morning host Skip Lacombe agreed.
“I don't know who I'm going to get,” said Lacombe. “I don't know if I'm going to get the guy who spoke 10 years ago or the guy who's speaking now.”
Rev. Ben Johnson, U.S. Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews.com, took issue with Trump's history of “offensive” remarks: “He's a problematic candidate with the number of offensive statements he has made. Rubio and Cruz have a stronger pro-life record.”
The anti-Trump venom was clear during a Republican debate watch party Thursday night in the main CPAC ballroom that drew hundreds of attendees. When Trump appeared on the big screens, the booing and cat-calling was heavy, while Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio received mostly applause and cheers among the CPAC crowd.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, who opened the viewing party, asked the crowd to give their view of each debate candidate via applause. Trump's name was the only one to elicit strong booing.
Rumors of a walkout when Trump appears Saturday morning have also been circulating the conference.
Conservative media hosts were not the only anti-Trump voices at CPAC, as several elected officials urged opposition to his candidacy.
Ken Cuccinelli, the former Republican Virginia attorney general who now heads the Senate Conservatives Fund, said, “I'm a Cruz supporter, Cruz is better.”
He later added, “Cruz would bring us in a conservative direction finally. I think that's what we really need as a party and certainly as a country.”
He said of Trump: “He's not a conservative and Ted is, that is a huge difference. With the departure of Dr. [Ben] Carson from the race Ted is the only conservative.”
But when asked if he would serve in a Trump administration if asked, he said, “we'll look into it when he gets there.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) also questioned Trump's conservatism.
“We all know that Donald Trump is not a conservative,” he told reporters. "But at CPAC we need to talk about the things that bring us together.
“I don't think anyone knows what Donald Trump's core principles are. I don't think Donald Trump knows what Donald Trump's core principals are,” he said.
Sasse, who has said he won't vote for the businessman even if he's the Republican nominee, added that Trump is “waging a hostile takeover of the Republican party.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also said he supports Cruz over Trump: “He's a full spectrum constitutional Christian conservative, I know that's in his bones and what he's made of.”
Trump did have some supporters among the media ranks at CPAC, but they were few and far between.
“I've been a Trump guy, I'm endorsing Trump,” said radio host Lars Larson. “If I can get two things out of this president, one is build the wall. The second thing, I want him to negotiate hard with Iran and with our trade partners.”
Rusty Humphries, a USA Radio Networks talk show host, also backed Trump.
“I like him,” he said. “The country has been starving for leadership. We put in the Tea Party, we elect all these people and nothing gets done.”
John Fredericks, a radio host at three D.C.-area stations, agreed: “He's a disrupter with the elite, establishment, money donor, bankster class that are beholden to the global open border cheap labor crowd.”