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Trump immigration architect Stephen Miller wants the media to rehab his image

In a rational and healthy polity, Miller would be regarded as a pariah, not a source or a pundit.
Photo collage of Stephen Miller at the podium merged with the image of children and workers at a tent encampment in Texas.
Before we rush to normalize this man, we ought to remember who he is. Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

Stephen Miller, the arch-white nationalist of the Trump administration, has launched his post-White House career with a flurry of media interviews, cable television hits and what amounts to a full-fledged shadow war against the Biden administration.

Miller is orchestrating GOP attacks on the new administration’s border policy, encouraging leaks from border enforcement officials and laying the groundwork for legal challenges. In interviews, he even portrays himself as an ally of the media, digging for the truth.

Miller is orchestrating GOP attacks on the new administration’s border policy and laying the groundwork for legal challenges.

“It was a global policy, allowing and encouraging media access,” Miller told Politico Playbook. “I used to call [Customs and Border Patrol] and say, ‘Why can’t you get more reporters to ride alongside?’ … I want to turn on ‘60 Minutes’ and see footage.”

But before we rush to normalize Miller — or allow him to slip back in among the cable news punditry — we ought to remember who he is.

Miller is not simply one of the many misfit toys left over from the moral squalor of the Trump years. He is one of the nation’s most notorious and well-documented bigots, and the architect of some of the darkest moments in our recent national nightmare.

In a rational and healthy polity, Stephen Miller would be regarded as a pariah, not a source.

This week, our colleague Mehdi Hasan noted on MSNBC that there is “no shortage of odious people who gained power thanks to Donald Trump.”

But even in this menagerie of moral midgets, he noted, Miller stood out as “probably the most repugnant individual to serve in the Trump White House.”

“If you had to pick just one,” Hasan said, “who should be pushed out of public life, who should hang his head in shame and never be heard from or taken seriously ever again, it would have to be Stephen Miller.”

Indeed, Miller is not a shadowy or mysterious figure; his record is described in great detail in Jean Guerrero’s book, “Hatemonger,” and thoroughly documented in a massive 2019 email dump.

Former Breitbart writer Katie McHugh gave hundreds of Miller’s emails to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in November 2019. The cache showed how he “promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage.”

“I would absolutely call him a white supremacist,” McHugh later said.

As the SPLC reported, the emails show Miller promoting “white nationalist websites, a ‘white genocide’-themed novel in which Indian men rape white women, xenophobic conspiracy theories and eugenics-era immigration laws that Adolf Hitler lauded in ‘Mein Kampf.’”

Miller had a particular fascination with the novel “Camp of the Saints,” which paints a dystopian picture of dark-skinned immigrants who invade and threaten to overwhelm the West. When The New York Times reviewed the book in 1975, it likened reading it to “being trapped at a cocktail party with a normal‐looking fellow who suddenly starts a perfervid racist diatribe.”

The point of “Camp of the Saints,” wrote The Times, was that white supremacy was “the last bastion of defense for civilization; conflict between the different races is inevitable.”

But in September 2015, in an email to Breitbart’s McHugh, Miller cited the book in response to remarks by Pope Francis that the West should be more welcoming to immigrants.

“Also,” he wrote, “you see the Pope saying west must, in effect, get rid of borders. Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints.”

Miller also routinely promoted the work of groups like VDARE, an anti-immigration website, and cited the journal American Renaissance, which the Anti-Defamation League has labeled a “white supremacist journal.”

Cas Mudde, a political scientist who studies right-wing extremism, told The New York Times that “both VDARE and American Renaissance are white nationalist organizations, who provide a pseudo-intellectual veneer to classic racism.”

After Miller’s emails were revealed in 2019, more than a hundred members of Congress (none of them Republicans) called for Miller to be removed.

After Miller’s emails were revealed in 2019, more than a hundred members of Congress (none of them Republicans) and dozens of civil rights groups called for Miller to be removed from the White House.

Even though other White House officials had been fired for ties to white nationalist groups, Trump stood firmly behind Miller. His survival then was an extraordinary indication of how far the Trump White house had changed the norms of the presidency.

Robert McCaw, the government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, noted, “Someone who is so overtly white supremacist and promotes such draconian, anti-immigrant, anti-person-of-color policies could not have survived in a Bush or Reagan administration.”

Why, asked one writer in The Guardian, “is Trump’s white nationalist aide untouchable?”

The answer was actually obvious. By 2019, Miller’s white nationalism had suffused Trump’s policy on immigration and the border. It was echoed in Trump’s remarks about “s--- hole” countries,” his continued references to immigrant crime and his embrace of intentional cruelty in the separation of families at the border.

“What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration,” McHugh said.

And now, Miller is embarking upon a new act, trading on his position as a former top White House aide.

The temptation, as Hasan noted, is to treat him as newsworthy — to rehabilitate his image for him.

But, Hasan argued, “Stephen Miller does not deserve to be normalized. Some would say he deserves to be prosecuted. At the very minimum, he deserves to be shunned.”

If the media does normalize him, argues Jean Guerrero author of the 2020 book "Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda" they will be “helping people like Stephen Miller launder incredibly dangerous conspiracy theories about white genocide that have motivated acts of extreme white terrorism like we saw in El Paso, where 23 people were killed.”

Is this then a call to “cancel” Stephen Miller by expelling him from polite society and treating him like a pariah?

Actually, it is. And no one in our public life deserves it more richly.