Candace Owens, scheduled to speak tonight, May 20, in Springfield, says that Donald Trump, given oxygen in the White House last fall before being taken to Walter Reed Medical Center, wasn't that sick. Mob justice brought down Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, she maintains.
Climate change? "Dot-com, though," Owens responded when the host of a 2018 radio program pointed out a story on Scientific American's website showing most scientists believe humans are contributing to global warming. "That means it's making money. I don't trust that. If it was dot-org, I would probably trust that." She's also critical of Black Lives Matter, calling activists "whiny toddlers," labeling the Democratic Party a plantation and saying that African Americans are doing worse economically than during the 1950s. She has asserted that the southern strategy used by Richard Nixon and other Republicans to get elected by exploiting racism in the South didn't happen.
A college dropout who earns her living as an author and talk show host, Owens has become a leading voice in American conservatism, winning praise from Donald Trump and vice versa. The Sangamon County Republican Central Committee is bringing Owens to the Bank of Springfield Center for the party's annual Lincoln Day dinner, with tickets costing $100 and photos taken with the keynote speaker offered for $50.
Owens' scheduled appearance is the latest in a series of nationally known figures, including Rudy Guiliani, Ben Carson and Ted Nugent, that the county GOP has secured to speak at the annual fundraising dinner, which this year was postponed from February until now due to pandemic. Leading local Republicans aren't apologizing.
"I'm going to the dinner, I always go to the dinner," said state Rep. Mike Murphy. "I wouldn't be here without Sangamon County Republicans. They endorsed me, which cleared the way for me – there was no primary. I would go for that reason."
Murphy said he's heard snippets of Owens' views via social media but has never heard her give a speech. "I know she's controversial," he said. "If you only go with people you 100 percent agree with, you're never going to learn or evolve. ... Every day of my life, I listen to people who have different views than me."
State Rep. Tim Butler took a neutral stance on Owens' appearance and said he'll be absent.
"It's a decision that was made by the party, by the folks who organized it (the dinner)," Butler said. "I actually have something else going on that night. One thing is, they're honoring Rosemarie Long, and I hate to miss that."
Long, who was county party chairwoman for nearly 20 years, died in February from complications of COVID. Owens has downplayed the pandemic, saying that deaths have been overcounted and vowing that she will never be vaccinated.
County board chairman Andy Van Meter said that Long supported inviting Owens to speak at the fundraiser where a tribute to the late chairwoman is expected. "Rose was really excited about this speaker," Van Meter said. "I'm going to see what she has to say. Sometimes she says goofy stuff, sometimes she says interesting stuff."
Don Tracy, chairman of the state Republican Party, says it's a matter of free speech .
"I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment," Tracy said. "I'm strongly opposed to the cancel culture. I think we need to have a healthy debate."
Owens is a relative latecomer to politics and to Trump, whom she says lost the presidency in a rigged election. She has a spotty voting record.
"This is the first time I've been politically inclined and active, and I think Donald Trump is a tremendous president," she told NBC News in 2018 when asked why she didn't vote in 2012 or 2016 presidential elections. "And I wanted to be educated. I wanted to do a deep dive before I started going out there and saying stuff as opposed to other people who mindlessly vote."
In February, she tweeted that she's considering a run for the White House in 2024 – having turned 32 in April, she will be old enough. She's also questioned Trump's party affiliation.
"I don't think Trump is a Republican," Owens told Business Insider in 2019. "He ran on a Republican ticket, but no, I think Trump represents his own sort of emergence of a more independent party that holds conservative beliefs."
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.