Profile on the Right: Stephen Miller

About Erin Kelly

Stephen Miller speaking at an event in Phoenix, Arizona, June 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old senior policy advisor to Trump, spent seven years as a communications and speech writing advisor to U.S. Attorney General and former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and worked with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.). A graduate of Duke University with no discernible policy experience, Miller is also the speechwriter responsible for Trump’s divisive speech at the Republican National Convention.1 The speech was widely noted for its harsh tone—one of “law and order” and “making America safe again,” even as the country experiences historic lows in violent crime. The speech was called “deeply disturbing,” “angry and harsh,” and “deeply resentful” by veteran political adviser David Gergen; peppered with ideology that “not many [conservatives] are willing to support,” according to conservative commentator Tara Setmayer; and “hateful” by commentator Raul Reyes.2

Miller is a staunch conservative who rallied on behalf of White nationalist Peter Brimelow in 2007. Brimelow, founder of the Center for American Unity, has promoted the work of men like Samuel T. Francis, the late editor of Citizens Informer, published by a White supremacist organization that has described Black people as “a retrograde species”—and White supremacist Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a former magazine and current blog that specializes in eugenics and “race betterment” through selective breeding.3

A native of Santa Monica, Miller developed his right-wing ideology early, after reading Guns, Crime and Freedom by NRA President Wayne LaPierre.4 He has long been associated with anti-immigration, anti-globalist, nationalist, and xenophobic views, which fall neatly in line with those espoused by Sessions, Trump, and other key influencers in the administration. He is ardently outspoken against feminism, has questioned the validity of unequal pay for women, and has said, “there is a place for gender roles. … I can’t stomach the idea of, say, having a wife who worked as a prison guard … Feminists would say this outlook makes me a chauvinist. But they’d be wrong. It’s not chauvinism. It’s chivalry.”5

More recently, Miller has also been associated with influential Alt Right leader Richard Spencer, who made national headlines when he closed a speech in celebration of Trump’s presidential victory with “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” and was met with Nazi salutes from audience members.6 Although Miller denies any relationship between them, Spencer claims that he “knew [Miller] very well” when they were both students at Duke and that they raised money together as part of an initiative to bring Brimelow to campus.7

Although Miller appeared mostly at rallies and behind the scenes during Trump’s campaign, he was brought into the limelight in February after spokesperson Kellyanne Conway made repeated blunders on national television.8 Miller soon gained notoriety for being combative, making false statements, and using phrases that sounded alarmingly authoritarian as he made his rounds on major news circuits. Miller’s dialogue in these interviews reiterated ideologies he promoted during the campaign. In June 2016, Miller assured campaign rally-goers that a Trump administration would “build a wall high [and] tall … and we’re going to build it out of love … for every family who wants to raise their kids in safety and peace.”9

The implication that a wall provides “safety and peace” plays to the administration’s fear mongering by reinforcing a baseless belief in immigrant criminality. The Wall Street Journal, hardly a bastion of liberal propaganda, published commentary in July 2015 dispelling the “mythical connection between immigrants and crime.”10 According to the Immigration Policy Center, immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to commit violent crimes; this is true no matter their nationality or country of origin. Illegal immigration to the U.S. more than tripled from 1990 to 2013. Meanwhile, the violent crime rate declined 48 percent and property crime rates fell 41 percent.11

While Miller stoked the flames of xenophobia in campaigning for Trump, in his senior administrative position he is now poised to directly influence policy in dangerous, regressive, and disturbing ways. In a February 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Miller defended Trump’s controversial travel ban and said the nation would be better off financially by helping Syrian refugees settle in their own country12—where more than 460 civilians have been killed in less than three months, and 400,000 people have been killed overall since 2011.13 Miller says refugees cost the United States more money than they’re worth—another unsupported claim. On the contrary, repeated studies have shown that refugees typically have either a positive or neutral effect on a host community’s economy and wages.14

One of Miller’s most disturbing comments came in a February exchange with John Dickerson on “Face the Nation,” in response to a question regarding the Supreme Court overturning Trump’s travel ban: “The whole world will soon see … that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”15

Miller’s alarming comments didn’t stop there. He appeared on ABC’s “The Week,” where he repeated blatant mistruths regarding voter fraud. Miller used an oft-cited research study led by Jesse Richman of Old Dominion University to argue that “14 percent of noncitizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.” This has been repeatedly debunked.16 The Trump camp has so often used this study in their oratory that the researcher himself made a statement: “On the right there has been a tendency to misread our results as proof of massive voter fraud, which we don’t think there are.”17

Endnotes

[1] Gautam Hathi and Rachel Chason, “Stephen Miller: The Duke grad behind Donald Trump,” The Chronicle, July 31 2016, http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2016/07/stephen-miller-the-voice-behind-donald-trump.

[2] “Trump: A Speech Like No Other?” CNN, July 22, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/22/opinions/republican-convention-roundup/.

[3] “Extremist File: Peter Brimelow,” Southern Poverty Law Center

[4] Rosie Gray, “How Stephen Miller’s Rise Explains the Trump White House,” The Atlantic, February 4, 2017,  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/how-stephen-millers-rise-explains-the-trump-white-house

[5] Stephen Miller, “Sorry Feminists,” The Chronicle, November 22, 2005, http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2005/11/sorry-feminists.

[6] Paul Murphy, “White Nationalist Richard Spencer Punched During Interview,” CNN, January 21, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/white-nationalist-richard-spencer-punched/.

[7] Josh Harkinson, “Meet the White Nationalist Trying to Ride the Trump Train to Lasting Power,” Mother Jones, October 27, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/richard-spencer-trump-alt-right-white-nationalist.

[8] Chris Riotta, “Advisor Gains Power After Kellyanne Conway’s Embarrassing Blunders,” International Business Times, February 13, 2017, http://www.ibtimes.com/who-stephen-miller-donald-trumps-advisor-gains-power-after-kellyanne-conways-2491002.

[9] Julia Ioffe, “The Believer,” Politico, June 27, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/06/stephen-miller-donald-trump-2016-policy-adviser-jeff-sessions-213992

[11] Jason Riley, “The Mythical Connection between Immigrants and Crime,” Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2015.

[11] Walter Ewing, Ph.D., Daniel Martinez, Ph.D., and Ruben Rumbaut, Ph.D., “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States, American Immigration Council, July 13, 2015, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states.

[12] Tessa Stewart, “Trump Advisor Stephen Miller Defends Travel Ban,” Rolling Stone, February 10, 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trump-advisor-stephen-miller-defends-travel-ban

[13] Janice Williams, “Aleppo Death Toll: How Many People Have Been Killed in Russian-Syrian War?” International Business Times, December 14, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/aleppo-death-toll-how-many-people-have-been-killed-russian-syrian-war-2460548

[14] Ana Swanson, “The Big Myth About Refugees,” The Washington Post, September 10, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/10/the-big-myth-about-refugees/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.a563058f6e29

[15] Aaron Blake, “Stephen Miller’s authoritarian declaration: Trump’s national security actions ‘will not be questioned,’” The Washington Post, February 13, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/13/stephen-millers-audacious-controversial-declaration-trumps-national-security-actions-will-not-be-questioned.

[16] Glenn Kessler, “Stephen Miller’s Bushels of Pinocchios for False Voter-Fraud Claims,” Washington Post, February 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/02/12/stephen-millers-bushels-of-pinocchios-for-false-voter-fraud-claims/?utm_term=.be47ca6c9f72.

[17] Jesse Richman, “Some Thoughts on Non-Citizen Voting,” Old Dominion University, https://fs.wp.odu.edu/jrichman/2016/10/19/some-thoughts-on-non-citizen-voting/.

Erin Kelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and women’s studies from McNeese State University and a master’s degree from Rosemont College. Kelly, a longtime writer and editor, is a contributor to the Library Journal, where she specializes in historical non-fiction, social science, and religious non-fiction.