It’s been another eventful twenty-four hours for Team Trump. Less than a day after details of the administration’s plan to sue universities over affirmative action policies that discriminate against white students were made public, the White House unveiled plans to limit legal immigration into the United States, especially for non-English speakers.
That announcement led Stephen Miller—the White House senior policy adviser and Gumby doppelgänger responsible for drafting the administration’s failed travel ban—to lash out against reporters in a press conference so unhinged that Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs wondered if he’d accidentally taken hallucinogenics.
At the briefing, Miller took to the microphone to defend
initiative championed by the Trump administration, the RAISE Act. Introduced along with GOP senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, the legislation seeks to curb legal immigration, and, as Trump outlined in an interview with Fox News, would also favor applicants who speak English. That detail, in particular, drew the scrutiny of the CNN’s Jim Acosta, which eventually pushed Miller over the edge.
Just as Miller was about to finish his briefing, Acosta asked him if the administration’s new policy was in line with American values and the sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me
tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”
In response, Miller argued that the famous poem, which was written by the Jewish-American poet Emma Lazarus, was “added later” and “not a part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
Acosta then pressed Miller on the administration’s preference for people who speak English, reminding him that many people are capable of learning the language once they get here. “Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?” he asked.
Miller harangued Acosta for the question, saying it revealed his “cosmopolitan bias.”
“Have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia?” he asked, adding that Acosta’s question was “one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said.”
So that’s the story of Miller’s aggressive press conference.
But there’s a Triangle connection here, too. Miller is a California native who grew up in liberal Los Angeles but cut his teeth in right-wing zealotry at none other than Duke University. As an undergrad, Miller’s vocal support for the lacrosse players accused in the infamous rape case earned him TV spots on Fox News. But his descent into conservative politics didn’t stop there. While on campus, Miller founded a group called the Terrorism Awareness Project, which aimed to “mobilize support for the defense of America and the civilization of the West,” worked closely with prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer as a member of the Duke Conservative Union, wrote a series of blockbuster columns on topics including “racial hypocrisy,” and introduced himself at a freshman mixer with, “My name is Stephen Miller, I am from Los Angeles, and I like guns.” (How’s that for a pickup line?)
Here’s how John Burness, Duke’s former senior vice president of public affairs and government relations, remembers him: “He’s the most sanctimonious student I think I ever encountered,” he told the N&O. “He seemed to be absolutely sure of his own views and the correctness of
and seemed to assume that if you were in disagreement with him, there was something malevolent or stupid about your thinking. Incredibly intolerant.”
And a little more on Miller, courtesy of Vanity Fair:
Now, at 31, the still-single Miller is President Trump’s youngest senior policy adviser, with his own office in the West Wing and a seat at the table during crucial decisions. His most visible act in that job so far was helping his friend Steve Bannon, for the moment Trump’s chief strategist, to craft and roll out the Trump administration’s first try at instituting a travel ban on the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. In the wake of a federal judge’s decision to strike down the ban, Miller was ubiquitous on television news shows. In one astonishing interview, dressed in his trademark dark suit and skinny tie, Miller told CBS’s John Dickerson, without irony, “Our opponents, the media and the whole world, will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”