One of President Donald Trump’s top congressional allies announced on Friday that he’d hired a speechwriter who left the White House last year after it was reported he’d spoken at a conference attended by white nationalists.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted that he had brought on board “the talented Dr. Darren Beattie” to serve as a “Special Advisor for Speechwriting.”
Beattie, who has a PhD in political theory from Duke University, was an outspoken Trump supporter at Duke and wrote op-eds backing Trump’s candidacy and his policy positions. He later joined the administration as a full-time speechwriter and policy aide.
That administration job became imperiled after CNN’s KFILE investigative unit reported in summer 2018 that Beattie had spoken at a 2016 conference frequented by white nationalists like Richard Spencer, who also was a PhD student at Duke University. Beattie, who delivered a talk called “The Intelligentsia and the Right,” was on the program alongside Peter Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant website VDARE, and other alt-right figures.
According to The Washington Post, the White House in August asked Beattie to resign over his attendance at the conference. When he refused to do so, he was fired.
In a text to The Daily Beast, Gaetz said he had no issues with Beattie’s attendance at the conference, noting that Beattie had not been accused of saying anything bad himself but merely being in attendance while “other people said bad stuff.”
“I remember when the left tried this on America’s now most popular Governor,” Gaetz added, adding a link to a 2018 campaign story of how then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) attended the far-right Freedom Center conference four times. DeSantis went on to win the election despite being dogged for his attendance at that event.
It is unusual for House members, save for those in leadership, to have designated speechwriters. Told that The Daily Beast assumed he wrote his own speeches, Gaetz responded with the “HAHA” function on iMessage.
This is not Gaetz’s first flirtation with figures from the world of the alt-right. In 2018, the Florida congressman invited Chuck Johnson, a notorious right-wing troll, to be his guest to the State of the Union. Gaetz told Politico that he was unaware of most of Johnson’s views before extending the invite.
Shortly after Beattie was fired from the White House, Johnson came to his defense in an email chain for the listserv of the conservative Claremont Institute, which quickly spiraled into finger-pointing about white nationalism.
In response to an August 21 email from Beattie defending his reputation, Johnson replied “well said” and fended off criticism from other listserv members about Beattie’s associations.
“Beattie's offense is that he spoke at an event where -- gasp! -- there were white nationalists afoot!” wrote Johnson. “Heaven forbid that some thinkers -- like the American founders who favored our country be majority white -- think that the U.S. of A should stay majority white.”