At the height of the Duke lacrosse case, Stephen Miller made a name for himself on national television defending facts.
Ten years later, Miller—Trinity ’07 and now President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser—finds himself being ridiculed by everyone from Joe Scarborough to Stephen Colbert for appearing Sunday on morning news shows and repeatedly promoting widely debunked claims about voter fraud in New Hampshire.
Even KC Johnson, the author of the “Durham-in-Wonderland” blog who called Miller “one of the heroes” of the 2006 lacrosse case, said Miller’s relationship with facts seems to have changed in the past decade—for the worse.
“If in the spring of 2006, he were making the sorts of arguments that he made last week on the Sunday talk shows, his role in the case would have been utterly useless,” said Johnson, now a professor of history at Brooklyn College.
“He would have been, if anything, a detriment to the players," added Johnson.
Miller did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article.
While many in the media, as well as activists both on and off campus, rushed to condemn the lacrosse players who were accused of rape, Miller loudly insisted that they be presumed innocent until there was clear evidence to the contrary.
“He began to speak up at a time when, to use a phrase that has suddenly become common, Mr. Nifong was dominating the airwaves with alternative facts,” said Johnson, referring to the disbarred Durham district attorney who brought the case against the players. “There was a particular narrative about the case, all of which was simply false.”
In April 2006, one month after Crystal Magnum—a local college student and stripper—falsely accused the players of rape, Miller went on HLN’s “The Nancy Grace Show” and rattled off a list of problems with the accusations against the players.
“As the facts started to come out, there were many irregularities and inconsistencies that troubled me like many other people,” he said.
At one point, Miller, then a senior at Duke, called Grace out for repeatedly referencing bruises on Magnum as evidence that she had been assaulted. Showing his attention to detail, he noted that the bruises had been photographed at 12:03 a.m.—before the alleged rape occurred. Miller also dismantled the accusations point by point in a series of detailed Chronicle columns.
Fast-forward 10 years, however, and Miller does not seem to have that same attention to detail or that same insistence on the importance of facts.
During appearances on Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, Miller repeatedly promoted widely debunked claims about voter fraud in New Hampshire, earning himself “four pinocchios” from The Washington Post’s fact checker.
Johnson described it as “disappointing” to see Miller use his skills “to advance arguments and to present data that are divorced from reality.”
Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” appeared dumbfounded as he described Miller’s weekend performances as “horrendous” and “an embarrassment.” Colbert mocked Miller, calling him a “liar” and challenging him to appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” so that he could call him a liar to his face.