The Slatest

A Guide to All the RNC Speakers Who Aren’t Politicians

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks behind a podium.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday. David T. Foster III/Pool/Getty Images

The Republican National Convention began Monday, and the lineup of speakers includes the standard mix of party leaders and nonpoliticians.

To get a sense of the message the Republican Party is trying to send with its event, we have identified and listed the speakers at the convention who were chosen for what their stories represent, rather than their place in Republican politics—those who are not politicians or well-known Trump surrogates. (We’ve also left out two names because we could not be certain of their identities.) Here are those speakers, in order of their place on the published schedule.

Monday

Amy Johnson Ford

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Ford is a nurse from West Virginia who treated COVID-19 patients in Brooklyn. She does not appear to be a very political figure, and she may be there as a representative of health care workers on the front lines.

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Mark and Patricia McCloskey

The McCloskeys made international headlines on June 28 when they pointed guns at a group of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters passing by their palatial home in St. Louis. The McCloskeys have each been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony. An investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch unearthed a number of other moves by the litigious couple, such as:

• Suing to claim squatter’s rights on land that was set aside for common use
• Suing the neighborhood association for using a photo of their house in a brochure
• Suing Mark’s sister, father, and father’s caretaker for defamation
• Suing the neighborhood trustees to enforce their rule against unmarried people living together (something interpreted as an attempt to ban gay couples)
• Destroying beehives owned by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation
• Pointing a gun at a neighbor who tried to cut through the grass in front of their home

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The McCloskeys have said they were worried the protesters would invade their home. “They were going to kill us,” Patricia told Fox News host Sean Hannity. Mark told the Post-Dispatch, “I believe in my heart of hearts that the only thing that kept those mobsters, that crowd, away from us is that we were standing there with guns.”

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Andrew Pollack

Pollack’s daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He has been an outspoken Trump supporter and has said he believes that school security measures and “school marshals” can prevent future mass shootings. At the Democratic National Convention last week, the father of another girl killed in the shooting spoke to the urgent need for gun control measures.

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Tanya Weinreis

The owner of a small coffee shop chain in Montana, Weinreis was the first small-business owner in Montana to apply for and receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

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Tuesday

Abby Johnson

Johnson is a well-known figure in the anti-abortion world. She worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic as its director but in 2009 disavowed her employer and resigned to join the anti-abortion movement. She then published two books about abortion, and her memoir was turned into a popular Christian movie. Her story has been called into question by two investigative reporters.

Jason Joyce

A lobsterman in Maine, Jason Joyce is expected to praise Trump’s policies he believes have helped fisheries and the industry.

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Myron Lizer*

Lizer is the vice president of the Navajo Nation, one of the few Republicans to hold a high political office in the tribe. He has been described as a “controversial Baptist preacher” and has maintained the importance of networking and working with Republicans. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez delivered a keynote address during the Democratic National Convention last week.

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Mary Ann Mendoza

Mendoza’s son, Brandon, a police officer in Mesa, Arizona, died in 2014 when he was struck by a drunk driver who was an undocumented immigrant. She has complained in media appearances of her “disgust” with Democrats and that “our loved ones have become collateral damage in their illegal criminal first agenda.”

In a story that circulated widely among conservative media last year, Mendoza appeared to have been briefly suspended from Twitter after a series of tweets railing against “illegal aliens.” In response, Trump tweeted, “I will help Angel Mom (and great woman) Mary Ann Mendoza with Twitter. I know Mary Ann from the beginning, and she should never be silenced. She is a winner who has lost so much, her child.”

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Cris Peterson

According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Peterson is the “chief financial officer of a dairy farm.”

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John Peterson

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Peterson is the owner of a metal fabrication company.

Nicholas Sandmann

Sandmann rose to prominence in January 2019 after a viral video appeared to show him in a confrontation with a Native American activist in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In the video, Sandman, then 16, smirks and stares straight ahead while wearing a MAGA hat. Inches away, Nathan Phillips, an activist in town for the Indigenous Peoples March, sings and plays a ceremonial drum. A group of Sandmann’s classmates from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, in town for the March for Life rally, appear to mock Phillips. Sandmann and the other students became the subjects of national outrage, and their school put out a statement condemning their behavior.

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A second video that circulated later showed a more complicated situation involving a group of Black Hebrew Israelites and some misreadings of the situation. There was an immediate backlash against (and reckoning among) the media outlets that had covered the story and reporters who had made assumptions. Sandmann sued CNN and the Washington Post, claiming he was the subject of discrimination as a “white, Catholic student who was wearing a MAGA cap.” He settled with each for undisclosed amounts. Donald Trump tweeted his support for Sandmann. Since the encounter, Sandmann has continued to speak out against the mainstream media.

Wednesday

Jack Brewer

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A former NFL safety who has played for the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Arizona Cardinals, Brewer has been one of the few high-profile Black conservatives to speak out in support of the president. He has even called Trump “the first Black president.” Brewer had previously supported Barack Obama but has claimed he found that the Democratic Party pushed policies harmful to the Black community.

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Sister Dede Byrne

Sister Dede Byrne is a surgeon who retired from the U.S. Army in order to become a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In a previous address, Trump praised her work and said she administered first aid on Sept. 11. She currently works at a medical clinic in D.C.

Scott Dane

According to the Pioneer Press, Dane is the executive director of the Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers of Minnesota.

Clarence Henderson

Henderson was a civil rights activist who participated at a sit-in at a North Carolina lunch counter in the 1960s. More recently, he has given an invocation at a Trump rally. He has explained his political affiliation by pointing to the Democratic Party’s history of supporting segregation—a point that acknowledges the deep racism embedded in both parties’ histories but ignores the political realignment of the ’60s and ’70s. In 2016, he supported Ted Cruz before throwing his support to Trump.

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Ryan Holets

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officer made headlines in December 2017 when he adopted a baby from a homeless woman he encountered shooting up heroin. In the body camera video of the encounter, he tells the woman, “It’s going to ruin your baby.” The woman told CNN she felt that she was a “horrible person” but that he had “no idea how hard this is.” Their story went viral, and Trump invited Holets and his wife, Rebecca, to be special guests during the State of the Union address. While the story was presented as a heartwarming one, some critics voiced discomfort with the lack of information about the baby’s mother in Trump’s address.

Michael McHale

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McHale is the president of the National Association of Police Organizations, which represents “more than 1,000 police units and associations,” according to the association. In a statement endorsing Trump, McHale praised the president’s “steadfast and very public support for our men and women on the front lines, especially during this time of unfair and inaccurate opprobrium being directed at our members by so many.” According to Fox News, the NAPO endorsed Obama in 2008 and 2012 and no one in 2016.

Thursday

Ann Dorn

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Dorn’s husband, David Dorn, was checking on his friend’s pawn shop during the anti-racist protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing when he was shot and killed by a man looting the shop. Dorn, who was Black and a retired captain in the St. Louis Police Department, died while being recorded in a Facebook Live video that went viral. “Oh my God,” a man says in the video, “they just killed this old man at the pawn shop over some TVs.” Ann Dorn is herself a police sergeant. Dorn’s daughters have expressed concern about their father’s death being politicized and said he “did not agree with a lot of Trump’s policies or procedures.”

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Debbie Flood

According to the State Journal, Flood is the president of Melron Corp., an architectural hardware and castings manufacturer in Schofield, Wisconsin.

Alice Johnson

A first-time nonviolent drug offender who was serving a life sentence without parole, Johnson became a symbol for the need for criminal justice reform. She was released when Trump commuted her sentence after Kim Kardashian West visited him in the White House. Johnson was Trump’s guest at the State of the Union address in 2019.

Carl and Marsha Mueller

Their daughter, Kayla Mueller, was a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker who was captured by ISIS in 2013. Two years later, she was confirmed to have been killed, and the Muellers expressed frustration with the Obama administration. They praised the Trump administration after the special forces raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was reportedly Kayla’s main captor.

Dana White

The president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, White is a longtime friend of Trump’s and donated $1 million to a Trump super PAC.

Correction, Aug. 25, 2020: This article originally misspelled Myron Lizer’s last name.

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