White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)
August 3 at 3:42 PM
NEW YORK — When senior White House aide Stephen Miller disputed the significance of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty, he wasn’t stating a new opinion.Members of the far-right community, including such white supremacists as David Duke and Richard Spencer, have harshly criticized the poem and even used anti-Semitic language.“It’s offensive that such a beautiful, inspiring statue was ever associated with ugliness, weakness, and deformity,” Spencer tweeted in January, referring to such words by Lazarus as “wretched refuse.”


“The claim that America was to welcome ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ is a Jewish demand upon America, and not the original intention of the Statue of Liberty,” Duke wrote in 2012, noting that Lazarus was Jewish.

Miller’s comments about the poem, “The Great Colossus,” came during a press conference Wednesday when he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal to dramatically reduce legal immigration and shift the nation toward a system that prioritizes merit and skills over family ties. Miller noted, correctly, that the poem was not originally on the Statue of Liberty, but added 17 years later. He was responding to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, who asked whether the legislation violated the spirit of Lazarus’ words.