Leading figures of the white nationalist alt-right group will spend the eve of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration partying inside one of Americas oldest mainstream media institutions — The National Press Club.
The party has raised concerns among an anti-racist group that holding the event at the 108-year-old club lends legitimacy to far-right views that came to prominence during Trump's election campaign.
"It's unfortunate, but not surprising, that the alt-right is seeking legitimacy by holding an event at a venerable institution," said Keegan Hankes, an analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups across the US.
Billed as the 2017 Inaugural Deploraball, the 19 January event was pulled from the Clarendon Ballroom last week after the venue received a "slew" of negative comments online, according to the event's organiser Jack Posobiec.
The Deploraball takes its name from a speech by Democrat Hillary Clinton during her campaign in September where she described half of Trump supporters as "deplorables" who espouse "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic" views.
The website announcing the event said it is a gathering to celebrate the inauguration of Trump by those who "advanced liberty across the country and the world via blogs, social media, guerrilla art, music, video, and good old-fashioned hard work". It distances the event from the alt-right moniker. The party, it said, is "for Trump supporters from across the country, from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and walks of life".
Leading members of the alt-right, however, appear prominently on the guest list. These include Mike Cernovich, who helped start and spread a conspiracy theory called pizzagate that accused Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta of heading a child sex ring; Joe Biggs, a reporter for the radio show and website Info Wars — which maintains the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax; and Jim Hoft, who runs the conspiracy theorist blog Gateway Pundit.
There is no defined core ideology for the alt-right movement. In late November following Trump's election win, alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer, who aims to create a whites-only ethno-state, was condemned by Washington DC's US Holocaust Museum for holding an event where shouts of "hail Trump!" drew Nazi salutes from the crowd. Members of the loosely affiliated group variously support conspiracy theories, white supremacism, nationalism, anti-feminism and Islamophobia.
Up until he was hired as Trump's campaign manager, Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon was executive chair of Breitbart News. At the Republican National Convention in July he described Breitbart as "the platform for the alt-right".
One of the Deploraball's organisers, Jeff Giesea, told the Washington Post that holding the the party at the National Press Club "asserts that we're a new force in town".
The National Press Club's executive director William McCarren did not respond to a request for comment. A Press Club employee pointed out that the "event is not sponsored by us". It is being held in the club's event space.
The National Press Club in Washington DC was founded in 1908 and counts reporters from the Associated Press, CBS News and Time magazine among its members. Over the years, the club has held talks and press conferences by the likes of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Associating themselves with legitimate institutions, said Keegan Hankes, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, "is a long-time favourite tactic among white nationalists seeking to obscure the racist core of their belief system".
What is the alt-right?
The alt-right is a loose collection of people with far-right views that came into prominence during Donald Trump's election campaign. Many members operating online profess views related to white supremacism, nationalism, anti-feminism and Islamophobia, amongst others. There isn't a defined core ideology to the movement, aside from a rejection of America's mainstream conservatism. Alt-right members generally supported Donald Trump and hailed campaign promises to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and ban Muslims from entering the country.
With the rise of Steve Bannon, who was appointed as chief strategist and counsellor to the president in Trump's White House team, there are fears that the alt-right now has a voice in the Oval Office. Bannon was previously executive chairman of the Breitbart News website, which he once called "a platform for the alt-right".