It’s not necessarily news that Arianna Huffington once held conservative views, but a clip from “Firing Line” with William F. Buckley Jr. discovered by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows the media entrepreneur and Huffington Post cofounder once took far more radical positions on the issue of immigration and multiculturalism than any prominent voice in today’s Republican Party.
Huffington appears to take the most aggressive positions on the question of immigration throughout the debate. While others on the anti-immigration side of the panel, like far-right author Peter Brimelow, focus on specific data like census numbers, Huffington discusses deeper questions like American identity in seemingly racial terms, and says the United States can no longer “assimilate immigrants.”
“The last 30 years have changed our history and made us a kind of gray society,” Huffington says at one point during the two-hour debate.
The episode, which aired June 6, 1995, was uploaded in 2017 to YouTube as part of the Hoover Institute’s “Firing Line” archive project and features a number of prominent pundits and advocates, including Federation for American Immigration Reform President Daniel Stein, Brimelow, scholar Leon Botstein, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, National Immigration Forum Executive Director Frank Sharry and former American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director Ira Glasser.
Hosted at Bard College, the episode revolves around the question “Should We Drastically Reduce Immigration?” with Brimelow, Huffington and Stein taking the affirmative and Koch, Sharry and Glasser disagreeing.
Throughout the debate, Brimelow and Huffington share a clear ideological affinity. At the beginning of the second hour, even Buckley notes how Huffington “agrees a great deal” with the then-Forbes columnist and National Review editor.
“[Many immigration advocates are] ignoring the fact of the millions of people who have been on welfare who have been a burden on the already over-burdened services provided by California,” Huffington says about the surge in illegal and legal immigration in California. “And really anybody who talks to the underclass, that you mentioned, in California, knows they feel very resentful and if we want to avoid an explosion of racism that we should avoid, we need to take care of the problem now.”
The panelists also debated bilingual students in American public schools, which both Huffington and Brimelow dismiss as antithetical to the nation’s values.
“The census bureau is reporting now that about a third [of those] who came since 1980 and became citizens told the 1990 census that they couldn’t speak English,” Brimelow says, “although as you know, until 1990 they were supposed to speak English to become citizens. The system has collapsed.”
Later in the debate, Huffington attacks the “liberal policies” she believes are changing America’s cultural fabric:
“The problem is that many liberals, like Leon [Botstein], always say the same thing: Bilingual education isn’t working, let’s try a better policy. Let’s try a better affirmative action, let’s try better welfare policies. At what point, and after how many trillions of dollars have been spent, and after how many lives have been destroyed, are you going to be prepared to say that these things don’t work? Period. There’s nothing better to be done about it, let’s just scratch them.”
Huffington’s appearance on “Firing Line” is in stark contrast to the politics she espouses today. Even 11 years ago in 2007, Huffington discussed her experience immigrating to both the United Kingdom and eventually to the United States in a video for the progressive activist group the Courage Campaign.
Ironically, Huffington talks about the anxieties she faced having an accent in a foreign country and eventually “embraced” it because it was “a part of my identity.”
“America is a nation of immigrants. You cannot imagine America separate from the whole story immigration to this country because that was the birth of this country. Very often, our politicians find it easy to appeal to the darkest part of our nature by appealing to the anti-immigrant feeling. They look for scapegoats,” she said.
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