The Cesspool That Gave Rise to Stephen Miller
David Horowitz, the radical leftist turned fire-breathing Trumpist who mentored Stephen Miller, also found an admirer in anti-immigration pioneer and white supremacist John Tanton.
Last August, the conservative writer David Horowitz, who mentored Trump’s former senior adviser Stephen Miller, emailed me. Subject: “Your book.” He wrote, “I was more than generous with you, and you repaid me by raping me and my reputation, which I assure you will survive your malicious drivel.”
The 82-year-old former Marxist was referring to my biography, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda, which drew in part from email exchanges Horowitz had forwarded to me, showing conversations with Miller between 2012 and 2017, including those with him feeding Miller talking points for some of Trump’s most incendiary campaign speeches, which the reality TV mogul regurgitated. Horowitz met Miller as a Santa Monica high school student and shaped his career, introducing him to Tea Party Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman, who gave him his first job as a press secretary, and later to then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who also hired him.
Horowitz had previously told me he was trusting me with his correspondence because he read a 2018 interview in which I discussed my aversion to labeling people: “When you label someone, you do violence to them.” He said he feared being labeled a “hatemonger,” a word that had been used to describe him, and believed I was unlikely to label him or Miller. It was a strange argument given that Horowitz has dedicated much of his life to labeling entire groups, calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) “fascists” and progressives “totalitarians.” After my book was published, he featured me as the top article on his site, calling me “an anti-American racist,” and in a separate email, called me “stupid, lazy or deranged.”
Horowitz’s art is projection, which he teaches to his disciples. People fighting racism are “Nazis.” Activists fighting inequality are “oppressors.” Classified as an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, he has for decades groomed young conservatives to adopt an incendiary, extremist approach through his “School for Political Warfare,” and connected prominent right-wing politicians and media personalities at expensive West Coast Retreats and Restoration Weekends. “The political left has declared war on America and its constitutional system, and is willing to collaborate with America’s enemies abroad and criminals at home to bring America down,” reads the mission statement for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Now, two writers who have known Horowitz for half a century, Ronald Radosh and Sol Stern, have written a piece in The New Republic calling for an investigation into his nonprofit’s “potential abuse of its tax-exempt status.” Per the Internal Revenue Code: “All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate.” They recount Horowitz’s visits to a “psychic healer” and his “relentless drive toward the violent fringes.” As a radical leftist, they added, their former friend “celebrated the burning of a bank by a student mob. Today, he’s an intellectual pyromaniac who honors the MAGA mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”
In a strategy paper Horowitz emailed Miller in December 2012, as the Republican Party was publicly reckoning with its failure to appeal to communities of color, Horowitz called for Republicans to launch a campaign of fear. He later said they “must begin every confrontation by punching progressives in the mouth.” His drive to intimidate and terrorize has compelled him to threaten lawsuits against reporters, including me, accusing me of “malicious and defamatory statements” in a letter from his lawyer that closely resembled those he has sent to others. It’s an echo of how he spent the ’90s, coordinating lawyers to threaten legal action on behalf of people accused of bigotry.
Horowitz, who casts himself as colorblind, has tweeted content such as “The Most Dangerous Social Problem in America Today: Anti-White racism,” and attacks women of color in positions of power, saying of Rep. Ilhan Omar, “This witch is part of a terrorist network… should be deported now.” He denies Palestinians their national identity. “There is no Palestine, there are no Palestinians,” he has tweeted.
His tirades caught the attention of John Tanton, an influential white supremacist who published an English translation of the virulently racist French novel Camp of the Saints—which describes the destruction of the white world by brown refugee “monsters,” a book that Miller recommended to Breitbart for an article pointing out its “parallels” with real life. Tanton, who died in 2019, featured Horowitz on his website and highlighted his work through his journal, The Social Contract. He also wrote him and his colleague Peter Collier at least one letter, which The Daily Beast is reporting on here for the first time and is housed in the partially sealed archive of Tanton’s papers at the University of Michigan. In the letter, obtained from Virginia attorney Hassan Ahmad—who is suing to unseal the entire archive—Tanton rants about gay men and HIV and muses bizarrely about the rectum as “an ideal cultural medium: it is wet; its (sic) warm, it is chock full of nutrients, and has a rich blood supply to provide oxygen for those (aerobic) organisms that need this nutrient.” Horowitz did not respond to requests for comment about Tanton or the nature of their relationship, if any.
Tanton also shared Horowitz’s work with Dan Stein, the head of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which Tanton created with heiress Cordelia Scaife May to restrict the flow of brown and Black immigrants into the United States. Tanton wrote separately, “As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” Later, in the White House, Horowitz’s protégé Miller would implement restrictive immigration policies that echoed recommendations issued by FAIR almost verbatim, including limiting family-based legal immigration and attacking sanctuary jurisdictions.
What people like Horowitz and Miller believe, although Miller is careful to phrase it differently, is that white men make America great. White European males created “America’s unique political culture… [which] led the world in abolishing slavery and establishing the principles of ethnic and racial inclusion,” Horowitz wrote in his book Hating Whitey, ignoring the central role of racialized people in the civil rights movement. “We are a nation besieged by peoples ‘of color’ trying to immigrate to our shores to take advantage of the unparalleled opportunities and rights our society offers them.”
It’s a view that has become mainstream in the radicalized Republican Party, which has surrendered to its once-fringe white supremacists. Miller’s recently launched nonprofit, America’s First Legal (White Men First Legal), is attacking efforts to help immigrants, non-white U.S. workers and the LGBTQ community. Soon it will be women. He is Horowitz 2.0, more powerful than his mentor, leading a full-fledged assault on the teaching of critical race theory and diversity in schools through litigation and regular appearances on Fox News and other right-wing media. People must understand the man who made him, who helped forge our era’s banality of extremism.
Horowitz was right when he guessed that I would be reluctant to label him or Miller a “hatemonger.” I’ve seen firsthand the damage that labels have done to people I love, such as my father, who immigrated here from Mexico. But I also believe journalists have a responsibility to use accurate words to describe the actions of people in power. Horowitz and Miller not only made careers of hatemongering—they’ve made it a centerpiece of modern right-wing ideology.