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Annals of investigative journalism: Trump aide Stephen Miller ate glue and kept a messy desk when he was in third grade

October 12, 2018
Photo layout: Hollywood Reporter
The media have finally got the goods on White House senior advisor Stephen Miller: When he was in the third grade, he ate glue.
Also, the 8-year-old kept a messy desk, and his teacher couldn’t read his handwriting.
Reporter reporter Benjamin Svetkey tracked down Miller’s third-grade teacher, Nikki Fiske of the Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, California, where Miller grew up–and did she have a mouthful to say! Here’s the transcript of their interview:

Do you remember that character in Peanuts, the one called Pig Pen, with the dust cloud and crumbs flying all around him? That was Stephen Miller at 8. I was always trying to get him to clean up his desk — he always had stuff mashed up in there. He was a strange dude. I remember he would take a bottle of glue — we didn’t have glue sticks in those days — and he would pour the glue on his arm, let it dry, peel it off and then eat it.

I remember being concerned about him — not academically. He was OK with that, though I could never read his handwriting. But he had such strange personal habits. He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time.

At the end of the year, I wrote all my concerns — and I had a lot of them — in his school record. When the school principal had a conference with Stephen’s parents, the parents were horrified. So the principal took some white-out and blanked out all my comments.

Maybe it’s because I was a loner myself in elementary school–but I didn’t know it was ethical for a teacher to blab to a journalist her opinions about the classroom demeanor of a student, especially when the student is an 8-year-old boy. In my years of reporting on academia for newspapers and magazines, I’ve found that professors are careful not to comment negatively about the students they’ve taught.

But what the hay–it’s Stephen Miller, and journos just love to write about what a weirdo he is. It’s one of those “evergreens” like stories about dogs mourning at the graves of their late owners. Here’s an excerpt from a 2016 profile of Miller by then-Politico writer Julia Ioffe when he was on the campaign trail with the future President Trump:

There is something eerily vintage about Miller’s stump speeches. The combination of their substance—vilifying immigrants as killers, the promise of nativist glory days ahead—and their delivery with a calm face around a loud, droning mouth, slicked-back hair and sharp suit, floridly invoking powerful cabals against the people: All of it harks back to an earlier time. It’s as if the video should be in black and white, and the microphone in front of Miller an antique, metallic affair. This is an image Miller assiduously cultivates, smoking like a chimney and dressing in suits that earned him the nickname “Mad Men” on the Hill.

The “loud, droning mouth.” The “slicked-back hair.” Pretty eerie, no? Probably the long-term side effects of all that glue.

If the name “Julia Ioffe” sounds vaguely familiar, by the way, she’s the one who famously tweeted, right after then-President-elect Trump installed his daughter Ivanka in a White House office normally used by first ladies since Melania Trump was staying in New York with son Barron: “Either Trump is f[—]ing his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws. Which is worse?” After Politico terminated her writing contract (she was about to move to the Atlantic anyway), Ioffe dashed off a few more tweets complaining that she was being attacked because her phrasing hadn’t been “delicate” enough and that she was a victim of “censoring” by “media bosses”–before finally apologizing.

Update: The Daily Beast reports that “teacher of excellence” Fiske has been suspended (placed on “home assignment” is the technical term) over her musings about allegedly glue-chomping 8-year-old Miller:

A school-district spokesperson said they were concerned about “her release of student information.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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