It’s the unofficial position of VICE News that anyone under 18 is allowed to be an asshole. Saying outrageous things to test the limits of authority and social acceptance is as crucial to growing up as bad haircuts and regrettable T-shirt slogans. Provided such speech never crosses the line into hate or criminality, the consequences should be minimal. Live, learn, etc.
So we debated whether to publish this video of Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old senior aide to President Donald Trump. In the video, a high school–aged Miller jokingly calls torture “a celebration of life and human dignity,” and adds that cutting off the fingers of Saddam Hussein and his cronies is the “ideal solution” to America’s involvement in Iraq. Miller’s identity in the footage was confirmed by three contemporaneous sources, and it appears that the video was filmed in 2003, around the time of the invasion of Iraq.
Miller is a political prodigy, and just a few years after high school he was influencing national policy, first as a member of then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ staff and now as a key aide to the president. Miller was reportedly responsible for writing Trump’s executive order that suspended America’s refugee program for 120 days and banned travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries entry into the United States for 90 days. (On May 25, a federal appeals court declined to reinstate the order, setting up a possible Supreme Court case.)
Given Miller’s importance as a national figure, we decided that his statements within the video are instructive in understanding Miller. We shared it with White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said the video was created in jest and challenged its newsworthiness.
“This is clearly a sketch comedy routine performed by teenagers and for teenagers as part of a video yearbook,” she said. “This teenage skit does not reflect any policy position, past or present, held by Stephen Miller. This is another comical overreach by the media.”
Would we have published this video if Miller had graduated from Santa Monica High School 40 years ago, as opposed to 14 years ago? Or if his comments had been about the state of America’s highways or banks? Probably not. But we believe that the relative recency of these statements, combined with their direct connection to the area of policy he works on in the U.S. government, makes them relevant and newsworthy.