Nov 12, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Group says Stephen Miller shared story ideas on race, immigration with Breitbart

White House Adviser Stephen Miller

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Emails leaked to Hatewatch, a branch of the Southern Poverty Law Center, show that White House adviser Stephen Miller shared white nationalist content with right-wing news website Breitbart and sought to guide its editorial coverage before he joined the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Miller plays a direct role in shaping the Trump administration's immigration policy.

The big picture: Hatewatch reviewed more than 900 emails Miller sent to former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh between 2015 and 2016. McHugh was fired from Breitbart in 2017 for posting anti-Muslim tweets, but she has since renounced the far-right.

  • More than 80% of the emails related to race or immigration in some manner, per Hatewatch.

What Hatewatch says the emails show:

  • Miller shared links from white nationalist sites, such as VDARE, directly to McHugh, and suggested she draw on the content for her own reporting.
  • Miller recommended Breitbart write about the book "The Camp of the Saints," a novel often denounced as racist that SPLC says is "popular among white nationalists and neo-Nazis because of the degree to which it fictionalizes the 'white genocide' or 'great replacement' myth into a violent and sexualized story about refugees."
  • McHugh says Miller told her to aggregate from a 2015 article in American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication, that focused on interracial crime.
  • Miller "sought to create a counternarrative" to the news about the removal of the Confederate flag after a shooting at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina. McHugh wrote an article titled, "Amazon takes down Confederate flag, continues to sell communist merchandise," based on her conversation with Miller.
  • Miller wanted Breitbart to focus on the race of Chris Harper-Mercer, a student who killed nine people at a community college in Oregon, after media reported Harper-Mercer "espoused racist beliefs." Miller points out Harper-Mercer is described as "mixed race."
  • Miller told McHugh he was discussing story ideas with Pamela Geller, an activist known for her extreme anti-Muslim views.
  • Miller sent McHugh a link to an InfoWars story about comments made by Rev. Franklin Graham "advocating an end to Muslim immigration to the United States."
  • Miller refers to legislation by former President Calvin Coolidge that limited immigration to the U.S. based on eugenics.
  • Miller helped shape one of McHugh's stories about the Hart-Celler Act — which abolished racial quota laws for immigration — from the perspective that it was harmful to the country.

What they're saying: Elizabeth Moore, a spokesperson for Breitbart, responded to Hatewatch with the following statement.

"The SPLC claims to have three- to four-year-old emails, many previously reported on, involving an individual whom we fired years ago for a multitude of reasons, and you now have an even better idea why we fired her. Having said that, it is not exactly a newsflash that political staffers pitch stories to journalists — sometimes those pitches are successful, sometimes not.
"It is no surprise to us that the SPLC opposes news coverage of illegal-immigrant crime and believes such coverage is disproportionate, especially when compared to the rest of the media, which often refuse to cover such crimes.
No one in our senior management has read the book, 'Camp of the Saints,' but we take The New York Times at their word that it is a 'cautionary tale,' and the National Review at theirs that 'the central issue of the novel is not race but culture and political principles.'"

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement:

"We have not seen the report. The SPLC, however, is an utterly-discredited, long-debunked far-left smear organization that has recently been forced — to its great humiliation — to issue a major retraction for other wholly-fabricated accusations.  They libel, slander, and defame conservatives for a living. They are beneath public discussion."

Context: The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit that focuses on legal advocacy and civil rights. It's known for tracking hate organizations, but has been criticized by some who argue that its classifications are overbroad or politically motivated.

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