Attendees of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists, might have spotted a man in the exhibit hall wearing a t-shirt featuring the odious phrase “Muhammad Is a H*mo.”
They might not have realized he was a featured speaker at the conference.
Granted, not many saw the speech, and the man, a Los Angeles-area Republican street artist who goes by the name of Sabo, had changed shirts by the time he took the stage on Thursday. He was part of a lineup of “Activist Bootcamp” mainstage speakers who came up while many attendees were at other breakout sessions on immigration or Internet freedom.
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Sabo is something of a folk hero on the right, the conservative answer to Shepard Fairey. His more infamous work includes his “Abortion Barbie” posters, mocking former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, that papered Los Angeles last year, as well as a depiction of Ted Cruz as a shirtless, tattooed rebel. (Quipped Cruz at the time: “Saw this, but noticed an error … I don’t smoke cigarettes.”)
Rewire asked Sabo about the Muhammad shirt he was wearing. The back of it read “We F*ck Goats” (complete with an illustrated silhouette) and, in smaller type, “Je Suis Charlie.”
Was this in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo?
Not really, Sabo said. He acknowledged that the shirt was a bit “heavy handed,” but after the deadly attacks on the satirical French publication, he said, “It just makes it that much easier” to wear it.
“I’m waiting for somebody to punch me in the back of the head though,” he said.
To the contrary, several fans of his work approached Sabo over the course of a few minutes, and if they were taken aback by his shirt, they didn’t show it. One wanted a copy of his Ted Cruz poster. Another got a picture with him and “1776 Man,” the guy holding a giant Gadsden flag and dressed up as a Revolution-era patriot who has been a fixture at conservative conferences over the past few years. 1776 Man, for his part, was excited because he had just gotten Cruz to sign his flag.
Sabo said he came up with the Cruz poster because the Texas senator struck him as “kind of a badass” who “really pisses people off in Washington.”
Sabo is clearly no stranger to pissing people off himself.
“I mean, years ago, I would take pages of the Koran out and stick them in my butt,” Sabo said. “I would try to do a different page every day. Because what I wanted to do was make a collage.”
“And you know, I played Koran football, like you try to kick it over the uprights,” he continued. “I used it as a doorstop.”
Asked whether he believes Islam is an inherently violent religion, he said, “I think when you have a billion people in anything, you’re going to have issues. I mean, if only 1 percent is a problem, but the other 99 percent doesn’t say something about it, they almost might as well be signing off on it.”
Ultimately, it’s all about “the hypocrisy in Hollywood” and his distaste for the artistic establishment, he said.
“It’s like, for decades, they’re bashing Christians [in Hollywood],” he said. “A lot of street artists and rebel artists in the UK that I know of, they’re constantly bashing Christians.”
But if he asked them why they didn’t “say something about the Muslims,” Sabo said, their reply would be, “Every single time, bar none—‘Well, they might kill us!’ And I’m like, wait a minute, you’re supposed to be bad-ass artists. So what you’re telling me is the reason you fuck with Christians is because they’re not gonna hurt you.”
“That’s gay,” he said. “And I don’t mean gay as in queer. I just mean, that’s dumb.”
He added that he doesn’t think Republicans should be characterized as racist, misogynistic, or homophobic.
So what brought him to CPAC?
“They just dug what I do, I guess.”