Banned from FreedomFest? Our Side of the Story

A rumor has circulated over the past three months that Jason Rink, a well-known libertarian filmmaker, was banned or canceled from FreedomFest. This simply isn’t true. In fact, Jason purchased a ticket and attended the event. And he was tentatively scheduled to speak at Anthem, but he asked us to remove him from the panel.

The controversy arose from a film that Jason submitted to the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival called “The Most Canceled Man in America.” The 21-minute film portrays a young man named Nick Fuentes who was placed on a no-fly list and his bank accounts seized without the right to due process and presumption of innocence. As it was portrayed, this story aligned with Anthem’s libertarian principles: No matter what someone has said or done, every American is entitled to due process. The film was initially accepted based on the importance of the topic.

On May 16, FreedomFest sent an email announcing the Anthem Film Festival’s tentative schedule, with “The Most Canceled Man in America” included in the lineup. The documentary’s main subject, Nick Fuentes, was listed on the post-screening panel, although at the time of the announcement, Fuentes had been suggested, but not officially invited. The announcement including him without confirmation resulted from internal miscommunication, and we have taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Within hours, we received various inquiries from respected sponsors and speakers in the libertarian community about the announcement of Nick Fuentes as a speaker at Anthem. This prompted us to take a deeper look at Nick Fuentes, and this was the first time we understood the scope of Fuentes’s controversial views and behaviors. We admittedly failed in our due diligence to properly research the potential speaker, review the announcement, and contextualize the focus and make-up of this particular panel. We had relied on Jason’s presentation of him in the film. We deeply regret that oversight, which is not our norm. After conducting the deeper research, we decided not to follow up with an invitation for Fuentes to speak.

In the wake of a growing backlash on social media, Anthem director Jo Ann Skousen removed the film from the website, only to avoid more fire storm while we reached out to Jason Rink in a good faith effort to figure out how to re-launch the film. All of us at FreedomFest and Anthem believe deeply in due process and still wanted to screen the film with a productive discussion on this issue, without giving a platform to Nick Fuentes himself.

In a May 19 meeting with Jason Rink, Jo Ann and Valerie Durham, executive director of FreedomFest, explained the issues we were having as a result of the announcement. We  asked Jason to work with us to find a way to re-launch the screening of the film as a clear defense of due process and not a defense of Nick Fuentes. As one example, we asked Jason to consider re-editing the trailer and the synopsis to make this distinction clearer.

Jason declined to work with us on crafting a solution, saying, “You have a decision to make.” But he agreed to give us time to work on it ourselves. Later that day, Jason emailed Jo Ann, asking to be removed from his panel on the schedule. This was done at his request; we did not cancel him from the program of our own accord.

A few days later Jason informed us in an email that he would be making a public statement, even though we had not yet made a final decision on how to screen the film. He acknowledged at that time: “Even if you would choose to reinstate the film, which may be less likely once I publish this statement, the facts of the matter don’t change.” This was his choice, and ultimately it is the reason his film was not shown at Anthem.

Jason published articles on substack, appeared on several podcasts, and made numerous posts (many of which have now been taken down) that stirred up anger and misunderstanding toward FreedomFest and Anthem. In those articles we also learned that Jason had recorded our good-faith meeting, without our knowledge or consent.

Jason and Fuentes then worked together to plan an independent screening of their film in Las Vegas concurrently with FreedomFest. Their independent screening was sponsored by Fuentes’s organization, America First Foundation. We did not have a problem with this. We believe sincerely that Fuentes, Rink and Paul Escandon, the film’s director, have the right to show their film wherever they want, to any willing audience.

However, several of their followers on social media, as well as Fuentes himself, made statements about potential protests and disruptions at the conference and in the hotel during FreedomFest. We became aware of these statements, and that there is a history of these types of disruptions and protests by groups (including the so-called “Groyper Wars”) at other events similar to FreedomFest.

At that point, we had a contractual obligation to inform The Mirage of the situation. The Mirage undertook their own review and determined their own course of action. They discovered through their research that Rink had rented a penthouse in The Mirage hotel and that he planned to do an independent screening as a ticketed event in that penthouse. The Mirage/MGM corporate legal team determined that this screening was a violation of hotel policy and canceled Rink’s hotel room reservations.

On June 14, Jason informed us in an email that he intended to purchase a ticket and attend FreedomFest. We replied, “Thanks for letting us know,” and he purchased a two-day ticket beginning Friday, July 15. On Thursday,  July 14, Mirage security stopped Jason as he entered our meeting space without a badge. Jason recorded this encounter and posted it on social media. (The post has been taken down.) Hotel security allowed him to stay inside the hotel after the initial stop. Jason then picked up his badge Saturday, July 16, and attended the conference without incident. He was seen in several areas of the conference that day and even spoke with our director of programming, Matt Day.

As can be seen from this timeline, Jason Rink was never banned or canceled by FreedomFest or Anthem. The facts are clear: he purchased a ticket and attended FreedomFest. He was scheduled to speak at Anthem, but he asked to have his name removed from the panel. He also acknowledged in private emails that we were trying to find a way to screen the film, and that his own actions of going public would likely cause us to move on. Nevertheless, that is not the story he has told on substack, Facebook, podcasts and elsewhere. FreedomFest and Anthem have been unfairly represented by this campaign against us.

We would like to put all of this behind us and move forward with our real focus – bringing people together to make progress in the liberty movement. Throughout all of this, we have avoided engaging publicly with the controversy because we do not want to get into divisive arguments and in-fighting that is often, and unfortunately, present within the liberty movement. We have spoken privately when people have asked what’s going on, and some of those people have spoken up on their own accord. We plan to implement practices that will prevent an incident such as this from happening again. We appreciate the kind words of support we have received from many in the liberty community, and hope to return that same kindness to others.