President Donald Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller has come under fire for his role in crafting the president’s pause on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, and is being cast by prominent media figures as a toxic influence within the administration.
But for the conservatives who know Miller best, a far different picture emerges of the 31-year-old man who’s become a significant player in the White House.
On Monday, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough accused Miller of being on a “power trip” when it came to implementing Trump’s immigration policy during his morning show and blamed him for the problems with the travel ban. Later on Twitter, he shared a Daily Beast article on Miller and wrote, “Richard Spencer, a leading white nationalist, said he was a ‘mentor’ to Stephen Miller while at Duke.”
On Tuesday, Scarborough wondered if Miller, who previously worked for Alabama Senator and current attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, might be in contempt of court over his role in implementing Trump’s executive order.
The picture painted by Scarborough and the dozens of other journalists who retweeted his comments is that of a power-mad extremist taking the president down a dark path.
But David Horowitz, a long-time mentor to Miller, strongly disputes that characterization. In an interview with The Daily Caller, the conservative commentator effusively praised the White House advisor.
“He’s a good guy, Steve Miller, one of the most brilliant and courageous young men I’ve ever met,” he told The Daily Caller.
The Frontpage Magazine founder recalled how he helped Miller in his conservative activism at his California high school and was impressed by how a teenager could show such dedication to his political beliefs — amid very strong opposition from school administrators and his fellow students.
He jokingly added he wondered how Miller got into Duke University, considering how much he upset those in charge at his school.
When asked about the policy advisor’s politics, Horowitz had a surprising answer. “Steve has John F. Kennedy views,” Horowitz told TheDC. “He’s a John F. Kennedy Republican.”
He said that Miller shares with Kennedy the commitment to uplift lower-income citizens into the American dream, and he believes the young political operative exceeds “JFK liberals” in one particular regard.
“Steve Miller cares for the inner city kids in more ways than John F. Kennedy did. He’s better than the JFK liberals,” Hororwitz argued. “He and [Steve] Bannon are responsible for the $130 billion scholarship program for inner city kids, but that doesn’t get any coverage.”
When it comes to immigration, an issue Miller specializes in, Horowitz says his protege’s concern comes from a desire to preserve America as a healthy “secular democracy” and believes that every “patriotic American” should agree with the Trump aide’s hardline position on the subject.
“Anybody with a half a brain would be concerned with immigration,” the commentator told TheDC. “Who wouldn’t be concerned with America’s borders?”
In a Tuesday statement to The Daily Caller, Miller said this of his stance on immigration. “For too long, immigration policy has been made with the needs of everyone in mind, but the lawful taxpaying hardworking dedicated citizens of the United States,” he said. “That all changed on January 20th 2017 with the election of a president who will always put the American people first.” (RELATED: Trump Adviser Explains The Donald’s Immigration Plan: ‘The Definition Of Compassion’)
In an extensive interview with The Daily Caller last year, Miller defended Trump’s plans regarded the moratorium on immigration from terror hotbeds as “extremely moderate, commonsense, basic step[s]” for reinforcing national security. He also predicted that the plan would enjoy “very broad, bipartisan support and there’s obviously existing executive authority for suspending visa programs in the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Trump’s immigration pause, which he implemented with his executive authority, currently has the support of 49 percent of the American population. Forty-one percent oppose it.
When asked about the allegations that alt-right figure Richard Spencer mentored Miller, who is Jewish, while they both attended Duke University, Horowitz refuted the claim, calling it “idiotic” and “made-up shit.”
“I’ve known Miller since he was 17 years old and have never heard him talk of [Spencer],” he said.
Columnist Ann Coulter, who knows Miller and has enthusiastically championed his role in the Trump administration, similarly dismissed reports that he was mentored by Spencer.
“This would be like Meghan McCain claiming to be my ‘mentor’,” Coulter told The Daily Caller about the claims. She has previously said of his appointment to the White House, “We’re one step closer to my dream of having Stephen Miller run the country.”
Garrett Murch, senior editor at LifeZette who worked in Jeff Sessions’ press shop with Miller for over five years, also had high praise for the Trump aide.
“Stephen’s hard work always centered on our getting out important facts to the public, and was always done with the utmost integrity and professionalism,” Murch told TheDC. He also refuted the claims that Miller is influenced by white nationalism.
“That is patently absurd. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours working with Stephen and never saw the slightest hint of that. Did someone actually make that allegation?” Murch said.
A source who knew both Spencer and Miller while they attended Duke cast doubt on any strong ideological link between the two.
“Miller was basically a pretty standard conservative who took strong stands against illegal immigration and political correctness. If he had any mentor, it was David Horowitz,” the source said, who also added that Spencer’s views at the time “were more moderate than they are today.”
Fellow Duke conservatives who knew Miller in his college years also agreed with the source’s claim that Spencer did not influence the future political operative in recent interviews with The Duke Chronicle.
In spite of the recent blowback from media figures, Miller has done numerous TV hits over the last two days, delivering the Trump administration’s message on the immigration pause and the dismissal of the previous acting attorney general Sally Yates. (RELATED: Trump Adviser Defends President Firing Acting AG: ‘She Betrayed Her Office’)