Media are falling into Stephen Miller’s trap
(Boston Globe) - Journalists who normalize Trump’s former senior adviser ‘are helping him launder his white supremacist ideas into the mainstream.’
It was only a matter of time before Stephen Miller returned to the spotlight. And he did this week under the guise of a straight-shooting immigration expert to expound on the Trump administration’s supposed media transparency at the US-Mexico border, by way of comparison with the Biden administration’s restrictions on media access.
And so begins the normalization process of a white nationalist whose influence caused so much pain at the border and elsewhere. Miller’s resume as Trump’s senior adviser includes separating children from their parents — and he clearly egged on Trump to support his racist policies. Of all the problematic men surrounding the former president, Miller has to be the baddest. And not in a good way.
But only two months since Trump was practically pried out of the White House with a crowbar, Miller is gaslighting the public. And he seems determined to raise his public profile. On Friday he announced a new gambit: Politico reported that Miller is forming a new legal group that will focus on filing lawsuits against perceived abuses made by the Biden administration.
It’s another attempt at normalization, just like his recent interview in Politico Playbook’s morning newsletter, which sought Miller’s take on the Biden administration’s handling of migrants at the border. Biden has faced increased criticism from journalists, elected officials, and freedom-of-the-press groups for denying media access to overwhelmed border facilities that are housing unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. Politico quoted Miller without noting his alarming white nationalist background.
“It was a global policy, allowing and encouraging media access,” Miller told Politico on Wednesday. “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.” To see Miller quoted as positioning the Trump administration as press-friendly or in any way transparent is galling. Why didn’t Politico also note that Trump banned reporters and members of Congress from child detention centers in the summer of 2019? (In its evening edition, the newsletter issued a semi-correction but noted that Miller’s broader point about using selected images of migrants as a deterrence mechanism still stood.)
The bigger outrage is validating the stature of Miller, whose track record should not be whitewashed or downplayed.
In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a collection of leaked e-mails between Miller and the conservative website Breitbart News. The correspondence exposes Miller as a promoter of white nationalist websites, xenophobic conspiracy theories, and immigration policy rooted in eugenics.
Miller not only heavily advocated to separate children from their parents at the border, but when the policy was halted by a federal judge in San Diego, Miller was so upset that he “advised officials to err on the side of not putting families back together,” according to Jean Guerrero, author of “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.” In her extensively researched book, Guerrero describes Miller’s life arc and shows in detail how he became indoctrinated by right-wing mentors and extremist groups with virulent anti-immigrant beliefs.
The danger of normalizing Miller in the media is that “journalists who fall into Miller’s trap and give him a mouthpiece are helping him launder his white supremacist ideas into the mainstream,” Guerrero told me in an interview. One of Miller’s first acts in the White House, Guerrero wrote in her book, was to establish a new office for victims of crimes perpetrated by immigrants. It was dedicated to the “daily demonization of immigrants.”
Miller’s appearance not only reflects media amnesia, but also the new obsession with the border, which is rife with falsehoods and phony narratives. It bears repeating: Foreigners who show up at our borders to request asylum are following American and international law. But some of the journalists at Biden’s first press availability Thursday framed their border questions using the Republican, right-wing lens. As Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent noted, that’s a deeply flawed exercise because it assumes that not letting migrant children into the United States is an acceptable option.
“Miller has been peddling a border crisis to whip up hysteria about white genocide, or the idea that brown people are coming to replace white people systematically,” Guerrero said. “But he says it camouflaged in the language of national security and the economy. Miller has been doing this for a very long time, and he knows how to manipulate the media’s desire for balance.”
Instead of normalizing Miller, more media outlets should focus on humanizing the migrants whom Miller has worked so hard to vilify. And that doesn’t stop at asking for access at border facilities to witness conditions. How’s that for fair and balanced?