Media

Reporters Need to Ask the White House about Its Ties to White Nationalists

And They Need to Do It Every Day

Media Features Donald Trump
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Reporters Need to Ask the White House about Its Ties to White Nationalists

When Stephen Miller spoke to the Sunday shows on Feb. 12, he astounded the DC press with his full-throated defense of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. The President’s national security decisions “will not be questioned,” Miller said.

Miller’s comments were over the top. Yet, they shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone interviewing him. Even a cursory overview of Miller’s background would have revealed an article from a week and a half earlier detailing his connections with far-right, fascistic groups. Miller even has a connection with white supremacist guru Richard Spencer.

That Miller was not asked about these ties is unfortunate, but not surprising. Trump administration officials and spokespeople have been allowed to appear on media outlets across the country for almost a month without being substantively challenged on the administration’s closeness to the white nationalist movement. That must change. Now.

More of Miller’s past was quickly dredged up after his disastrous appearances on Meet the Press, This Week, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation. In addition to Miller’s ties to Spencer, who is—again!—an open and proud white supremacist, the White House Senior Advisor has a history of racial hatred.

In high school in Santa Monica, Miller’s views on his Hispanic classmates were well known. He wrote a letter to the Santa Monica Lookout in 2001 in which he made his antipathy to the population clear.

There are usually very few, if any, Hispanic students in my honors classes, despite the large number of Hispanic students that attend our school.

Fernando Peinado reported on Feb. 13 for Univision that in college, Miller was “associated to radicals like Richard Spencer, creator of the term Alt-Right (although Miller has distanced himself from Spencer), anti-immigration activist David Horowitz and white nationalist Jared Taylor.”

After college, Miller worked as an aide in then-Senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office as Communications Director (he also worked in Michele Bachmann’s office). He joined the Trump campaign in January 2016. Both men have histories of racist remarks.

Yet all of the above reporting—as solid and informative as it is—should not have taken this long. Miller appeared frequently as a warm-up for Trump’s rallies, unleashing his views on Islam and immigration on the crowds. Miller wrote many of Trump’s most explosive and controversial speeches. He was well known and he should have been thoroughly vetted by the press, especially when he joined the White House. And when he appeared on the Sunday shows last weekend, he should have at the very least, been asked directly about his connections with Spencer—which was first reported on all the way back in December and as recently as Feb. 1.

Of course, if it were only Miller this wouldn’t be such a big deal. Sure, the young advisor would be at the center of a controversy and would be forced out of power, but if it were only Miller that would be the end of it. But of course it isn’t.

The Trump administration’s ties to white nationalists are deep. It’s not only Miller. It’s also Presidential Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Sessions, and the president himself. Those ties need to be addressed every time any one of these men or their representatives appear in the media.

Bannon’s ties with white supremacist movements is well known. The former executive of white nationalist website Breitbart believes that the world is in the fourth turning, a generational shift in which a great war between civilizations will reset the world. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer should be asked about Bannon’s views during every single press conference.

Sessions has a long history of racist statements and an affinity for hate groups—he famously said the KKK were alright with him until he discovered they smoked pot. He relies on far right European hate groups for information on immigration and refugees. He is in charge of civil rights law enforcement in the United States. No public appearance by this man should go by without questions on his racist views.

The President’s father was involved with the KKK. His son, Donald Jr., has a history of sharing racist memes online decrying white genocide and the infiltration of non-whites into western nations. The President is never asked about these family connections to racial hatred. He must be. Every day.

And there’s more of course. The White House’s statement to remember the Holocaust didn’t mention the six million Jews who comprised the majority of the 11 million victims.

Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to Trump, has been spotted wearing a pin associated with Nazi collaborators from Hungary. Gorka has denied that his wearing of the Order of Vitek pin is associated with Nazism—though only indirectly and through Breitbart. And Kellyanne Conway, who has the ability to spin any bad news into a non sequitur, retweeted a white supremacist on Valentine's Day. All of these issues need to be addressed. Every. Day.

As Twitter user @_sunfloweremoji pointed out, the lack of combativeness in the US news media is symptomatic of the profession's recent technocratic impotence.

We’re in uncharted territory today, and the way that the news media covers power in America needs to change. Permanently. We cannot allow the Trump administration to be the exception that proves the rule—rather, this administration must be the turning point for the US media, when reporters stopped overlooking the ideological underpinnings for policy and power and started asking the difficult questions.

You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.

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