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Former Duke instructor fired from White House for attending controversial right-wing conference

Beattie spoke at an April event on campus discussing Trump's travel ban
Beattie spoke at an April event on campus discussing Trump's travel ban

Darren Beattie, Ph.D. ‘16, was a visiting instructor in the political science department during the Nov. 2016 election, when he made headlines for predicting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump would win in spite of the polls. After he left Duke, he became a speechwriter in Trump’s administration. 

It was also in Nov. 2016 that Beattie sat on a conference panel alongside an alt-right publisher who has been tied to white supremacist content. When CNN recently inquired about the connection, Beattie was quickly ousted from his White House role. 

“In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely,” Beattie wrote in a statement to the media. “I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”

The White House would not go beyond confirming that he no longer is employed there.

“Mr. Beattie no longer works at the White House,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN on Friday. “We don’t comment on personnel matters.”

Political Science Department Chair Georg Vanberg told the Chronicle that Beattie received no support from Duke to attend the conference and that, as far as he knew, no one at Duke knew ahead of time about his participation. Vanberg said that faculty do not need permission to attend conferences.

Beattie was hired for the 2016-17 academic year to replace a faculty member who was on sabbatical and left at the end of his one-year contract for “no special reason.” 

“Views that denigrate, question, or attack the dignity of individuals on the basis of their race, religion, or national origin, or advocate the social or political dominance of some groups over others, are fundamentally incompatible with the values of the university and our department,” Vanberg wrote in an email to the political science department. 

While at the White House, Beattie worked on some speech projects for Stephen Miller, Trinity ‘07 and a senior policy advisor for Trump, according to the Washington Post.

The controversial conference he attended was hosted by the H.L. Mencken Club. The Mencken Club bills itself as a “society for the independent right,” but its conference has been tied to white supremacists. 

CNN noted two 2016 speakers who were fired from the conservative National Review magazine in 2012 for “espousing racist views.”

The Washington Post and CNN articles cited Richard Spencer, who attended graduate school at Duke but did not complete a degree, with the Post describing him as one of the “well-known white nationalists” who have attended the conference previously. 

At the conference, Beattie gave a talk called “Intelligentsia and the Right” on a panel alongside Peter Brimelow. The Washington Post describes Brimelow, who runs the site, as “a zealous promoter of white-identity politics.” Brimelow rejects being labelled a “white nationalist,” according to the Post. 

Beattie has published what he describes as the full text of his remarks at the Mencken Conference on a website called “American Greatness.” 

An editor’s note at the top of the piece stated that Beattie was fired after CNN inquired about his participation in the conference.

On Twitter, Fox News host Tucker Carlson came to Beattie’s defense, stating that the speech had “nothing to do with race” and was “really smart actually.”

As an instructor at Duke, Beattie made headlines for predicting Trump’s victory at a Political Science department gathering prior to the election. He was a signatory on a list of “Scholars and Writers for Trump.” 

He told The Chronicle shortly after the election that he had believed Trump would win since July 2016, citing Trump’s “provocative” position on immigration that pushed back on Republican donors’ views. 

Beattie clarified that did not mean that he liked the way Trump phrased those remarks. 

“My point is that his willingness to take a position on immigration so antithetical to corporate Republican donors and then not be cowed by the usual shaming tactics reflected early on a certain independence and flexibility that led me to think we’re dealing with a very different type of candidate than we’re used to,” Beattie wrote in an interview with The Chronicle in Nov. 2016.

Beattie said the election could be viewed as “a referendum on globalization as it has been practiced over the past 30 years.”

In March 2017, Beattie wrote a guest column in The Chronicle defending Trump’s “travel ban” and criticizing Duke for signing onto a letter condemning it. 

He called the universities’ letter a “lazy document that fails to do justice to a complicated and contentious issue.” Duke was wrong to lend institutional support to it, he said.

At a panel discussion on campus in April 2017, Beattie further defended Trump’s immigration ban, but said it was not doing enough to prevent refugees from entering the United States.

“I would say at this point the order has been, unfortunately, quite a failure,” he said. “If you look at the refugee intake, it has barely been curtailed at all. It has been equilibrating at previous levels.”

Beattie said the ban should be expanded to include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

In the Nov. 2016 interview shortly after Trump was elected, The Chronicle asked Beattie if Trump, who is not a career politician, would run for re-election.

“Seriously? Of course Trump will act to get re-elected. Whether he will get elected will depend on how serious and effective he is in following through with the most important campaign promises,” Beattie stated to The Chronicle in 2016. “I’m optimistic but prepared to be critical when necessary.”

Bre Bradham

Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head. 

Twitter: @brebradham


Ben Leonard profile
Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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