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Trump appoints speechwriter fired for attending conference with white nationalists to commission that preserves Holocaust memorials

Alexander Nazaryan
·National Correspondent
·6-min read
Darren Beattie
Former White House speechwriter Darren Beattie. (Darren Beattie via Twitter)

WASHINGTON — A former speechwriter fired from the White House in 2018 for attending a conference at which white supremacists were also present has been appointed to a commission tasked with preserving Holocaust-related sites across Europe.

The former speechwriter, Darren Beattie, will join the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, according to a press release sent by the White House on Tuesday evening.

“Huge honor and responsibility!” Beattie tweeted the day after the announcement was made. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The appointment comes shortly after Beattie, in comments made on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, compared supposed efforts to oust President Trump to the “color revolutions” that defeated authoritarian leaders across Eastern Europe. Beattie said those efforts were being engineered by Norm Eisen, an ethics attorney who served in the Obama administration. As he described the case against Eisen, Carlson cut Beattie off, thus concluding the segment.

Beattie has also suggested that George Soros was behind attempts to remove Trump from office, though the financier and philanthropist’s efforts constitute little more than the kind of ordinary political contributions that both sides routinely engage in.

Over the course of his presidency, Trump has stocked various boards, councils and commissions with functionaries who seem antithetical to the work of the federal government. One of his appointments to the board of Amtrak, for example, was Todd Rokita, a former Indiana congressman who opposed Amtrak funding. In keeping with his transactional view of politics, Trump has rewarded friends and allies with such positions.

Beattie’s three-year term on the commission gives him, like other Trump appointees, a foothold in the federal bureaucracy long after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Jewish groups expressed dismay at news of Beattie’s appointment. “It’s appalling that someone who was considered too close to xenophobic white nationalists to continue working in the Trump White House would now be appointed to a U.S. government body focused largely on the preservation of sites dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims,” said Logan Bayroff, communications director for J Street, a progressive Jewish lobbying organization.

“It should be obvious that those who traffic in hatred of immigrants and refugees are the last people on earth who should be entrusted with honoring the victims of Nazis,” Bayroff went on to say.

The Anti-Defamation League, which was founded to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, called on Trump to “immediately rescind” the appointment. “It is absolutely outrageous that someone who has consorted with racists would even be considered for a position on a commission devoted to preserving Holocaust memorials in Europe,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

Igor Malicky
Holocaust survivor Igor Malicky, 90, at the former Auschwitz concentration camp in 2015. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The commission Beattie is set to join was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. Although its work is not limited to the Holocaust, it is primarily focused on upkeep of sites around Eastern Europe related to the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, as well as to the vanished culture of Jewish communities in places like Poland and Ukraine.

Reagan made the plight of Jews living under Communist rule a staple of his foreign policy. Trump has taken some steps favored by right-leaning Jews, such as moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. At the same time, the president’s embrace of extreme nationalist groups like the Proud Boys has troubled Jews outside his circle of supporters.

Just days after taking office, Trump faced intense criticism for issuing a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that did not mention Jews, who were the principal victims of the Holocaust.

Beattie, who describes himself as Jewish, in many ways embodies Trump’s complicated relationship with American Jews. Although the president has been popular with Israelis, American Jews overwhelmingly voted for Biden in this month’s election.

Beattie was fired from his White House job in August 2018, after it was discovered that in 2016 he had taken part in a panel with Peter Brimelow, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a leading anti-immigration activist.” The site Brimelow founded, called VDARE, has published articles by Kevin MacDonald, who has been called “the country’s most influential white identitarian ideologue.” MacDonald testified in the trial of David Irving, the notorious Holocaust denier — in support of Irving.

Stephen Miller
White House adviser Stephen Miller. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Beattie’s own convictions appear to track closely with those of Stephen Miller, with whom he worked at the White House. The two men both attended Duke, though they did not overlap. In 2017, Beattie called the ban on immigration from majority-Muslim countries “admirable” in a Duke student-run publication.

Miller was the engineer of that policy. At the time that op-ed was written, Beattie was a visiting professor at Duke. He appears to have joined the Trump administration as a speechwriter shortly thereafter.

While at Duke, Beattie wrote a dissertation on Martin Heidegger, the 20th century German philosopher best known for his inscrutable prose and unapologetic association with Nazism. The dissertation opens by denouncing Heidegger’s affiliation with the “illiberal and murderous” regime of Adolf Hitler.

It is not clear precisely what Beattie said at the 2016 conference, but he was fired quickly after his appearance there came to light. (In a statement to the Washington Post at the time, Beattie said he gave an academic talk and insisted he said “nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely.”) The move was a departure for an administration that tends to double down when confronted with a crisis and to defend officials embroiled in controversy.

Beattie was later hired by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a staunch Trump ally. How long he remained a speechwriting consultant to Gaetz is not clear, but Beattie does not appear to currently be a member of his staff. Gaetz’s office did not reply to questions from Yahoo News about Beattie’s tenure there, but Gaetz did congratulate him in a tweet: “Congrats Darren! Great choice by @realdonaldtrump.”

According to an online biography from 2019, Beattie is “currently writing a book in defense of Trumpist Nationalism.”

The White House declined to comment on the appointment.

In a departure from his scholarly work, Beattie’s Twitter feed is full of invective against Biden, the Democrats and Trump’s opponents. Beattie called former Defense Secretary James Mattis an “obedient DOG” while also mocking Trump’s notorious comments from the “Access Hollywood” TV show about assaulting women. “I totally believe joe Biden will go to jail for voter fraud,” another tweet from Beattie says.

Another of the appointments announced on Tuesday was that of Jackie Gingrich Cushman to the Adams Memorial Commission, which is working to establish a monument to John Adams, the nation’s second president.

Gingrich Cushman is the daughter of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been a zealous defender of Trump on Fox News and other outlets, in recent days amplifying the president’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, much as Beattie has been doing.

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