Former Breitbart Editor Katie McHugh On Stephen Miller And White Supremacy
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Emails from Stephen Miller indicate he harbored racist and Islamophobic views. Now the woman he was writing to says he helped radicalize her as a white supremacist. Miller worked in the Senate at the time for Jeff Sessions. He's now a senior adviser to President Trump.
Katie McHugh worked for Breitbart. She was fired in 2017 after racist tweets. Katie McHugh joins us now on the line.
KATIE MCHUGH: Thank you. Thank you, Lulu, for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to start with a pointed question about your motives because people may wonder. You have tweeted things in the past that were racist, things that got you fired from an already far-right website. You told CNN you don't have a full-time job or consistent lodging. Is this a bid to regain respectability - by taking aim at someone who many people deeply dislike?
MCHUGH: You know, my personal life is simply of my concern. What I will say is that I believe, no matter what happens to me, these emails must be made, you know, public. The public needs to see full and complete transparency. And I do not do this for, you know, money at all - receive no money. I sacrificed a great deal to make sure that these were carefully vetted and they weren't given to organizations that would simply pull one or two things for clickbait.
I gave them to the Southern Poverty Law Center - and especially the reporter Michael Edison Hayden because I believe he's the best investigative reporter in the country - to carefully go through them and understand that there's an entire network and structure of white nationalism that has infiltrated conservatism and furthermore is now in control of the White House.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let's dig into that. Last month, when we first learned the contents of these emails you gave to the Southern Poverty Law Center - and these emails which Miller has not disavowed - we saw hostility to immigrants from both Miller and yourself. And now you...
MCHUGH: May I say something?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course.
MCHUGH: He did not disavow them because they are authentic. He can't deny their authenticity. The only thing that they can do is deflect. And I am appalled that they would say that it is an anti-Semitic attack. That actually breaks my heart.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're referring to the White House's response to this saying that the...
MCHUGH: Yes. I am.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Fact of accusing Stephen Miller or releasing these emails is based on the fact that he's Jewish. And they view this as an anti-Semitic attack.
MCHUGH: That is absurd. And your background, you know - where you came from doesn't matter. It's your actions and your word. This is a person who believes in discredited race science and eugenics in how you craft policy to hurt people, especially people of color, especially Muslims.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did you understand his role to be at Breitbart? It's there that we see in these emails Stephen Miller suggesting stories to you. Some of the things he pointed you to were from white power groups. He approvingly quoted an infamous white power book, "The Camp Of The Saints."
MCHUGH: Stephen Miller was the editorial director of the political section of Breitbart News.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Explain how that worked, exactly. He would suggest something and then...
MCHUGH: I was introduced to him...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And then you would do it?
MCHUGH: I was introduced to him by Matthew Boyle, who's the Washington political editor of Breitbart News in - around June 2015. It was understood that I would take editorial direction from him.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And this is while he's working in the Senate for Jeff Sessions.
MCHUGH: Yes. Yes, it's absurd. It'd be like if Kamala Harris' office was, you know, writing op-eds for, you know, CNN and saying, this isn't from us. And they would publish it under, like, you know, news desk CNN. It was wildly unethical - incredible violation of journalistic ethics.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Breitbart has called you a liar, said that you were fired for many things that weren't just that tweet. But we also know that Steve Bannon, who headed Breitbart when you were there, called it a platform for the alt-right. And there's a lot of reporting that's shown that there was a political strategy behind the stories Breitbart chose and that Bannon chose and who they targeted. Did you have a sense of that while you were there? Did everyone understand what they were part of?
MCHUGH: Yes. And I - being fired from Breitbart was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I'm certainly not a disgruntled employee. There are actually many - like, I'm not a conservative. But there are many very good conservatives working for that website, and I wish they would walk away. This is just about morality and about, like, abiding by your conscience.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But when you were there, did Steve - did you understand that you were part of a sort of political agenda?
MCHUGH: I didn't understand at the time. I was very young. You have to understand this is my second job 10 months out of college. I was 23. I'm not saying that to excuse myself. I'm saying that this is going to happen to more young people. We see now how the Internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, are engines for radicalization.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why do you think this ideology is getting so much traction here right now? You say that you're actually wanting to speak out so that people can be alerted to how this has infiltrated so many parts of our life. What are your thoughts on that? Why is this happening? And how is it happening?
MCHUGH: That's a good question. And I apologize if my answer is imprecise. But I feel that people are isolated. And the Internet has boxed us into tiny little compartments all alone by ourselves - and so people staring at their computer all day. And this happened to me, too, because I was a journalist. I was a researcher. And this happens to Facebook moderators, as well. You keep viewing this content day in and day out. And it will change you because it's traumatizing, and trauma rewires the brain.
And whenever Stephen Miller was emailing me nonstop, calling me nonstop - well, not nonstop, but, like, frequently. We were in frequent contact. It - that's what's being pumped into your brain. And it changes you. And what I suggest to people is to do something like I did, which is say, screw this; I'm going to become a waitress; I'm going to talk to real people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Was it a hard journey when you looked at the things...
MCHUGH: Of course it was.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...That you wrote and said?
MCHUGH: Of course. Yes. Escaping the alt-right is like escaping a cult. And the thing about cults is that all your personal connections are in that. So you have to rip the roots out one by one. And you have to rely on people outside the cult and say, I need help. And you have to be humble enough - you have to humble yourself and admit that you need help.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Katie McHugh. She was an editor for Breitbart. Thank you very much.
MCHUGH: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we'll note that we reached out for comment from the White House, Stephen Miller and Breitbart. Only Breitbart replied. Their response reads, in part, that Katie McHugh was fired years ago for a multitude of reasons, including lying. The statement goes on to say that it's common for political staffers, such as Miller, to pitch stories to outlets such as Breitbart. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.