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Trump speechwriter fired amid scrutiny of appearance with white nationalists

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

A White House speechwriter for President Trump was terminated last week after revelations that he had spoken at a conference attended by well-known white nationalists, according to three people familiar with the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Darren Beattie, who was a visiting instructor at Duke University before he joined the White House speechwriting team, was fired Friday after a media inquiry about his appearance at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club conference, where Beattie spoke on a panel alongside Peter Brimelow.

Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant website, is a “white nationalist” and “regularly publishes works by white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others on the radical right,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks extremists.

Earlier this year, Brimelow described himself as a believer in “racial nationalism” who sees the future of the United States “precipitating out on racial lines.”

CNN’s KFile, an investigative unit, published a report Sunday on Beattie and his appearance at the Mencken event, which has been attended in the past by white nationalist Richard Spencer. Spencer is a prominent figure in the “alt-right,” a movement whose adherents are known for espousing racist, sexist and anti-Semitic points of view.

Once White House officials were informed about CNN’s pending report, Beattie reportedly was confronted and urged to step down immediately. But he apparently refused to resign, arguing that he was not racist and that he had made uncontroversial academic points at the Mencken gathering. When it became clear that Beattie would not resign, the people familiar with the matter said, the White House terminated him.

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Beattie worked for Vince Haley, the head of speechwriting at the White House and at times worked on speech projects for Stephen Miller, Trump’s top policy adviser and speechwriter, the people added.

It was not clear Sunday whether President Trump or Chief of Staff John F. Kelly were personally involved in Beattie’s departure.

“Mr. Beattie no longer works at the White House,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We don’t comment on personnel matters.”

Beattie, when reached by phone Sunday, declined to elaborate on his dismissal but provided The Post with a statement.

“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 said in the statement. “It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”

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Beattie, who holds a doctorate from Duke University, was one of the rare academics on the White House staff.

In 2016, he went public with his support for Trump and cited Trump’s hard-line immigration position as one of the key reasons for his victory.

“One of the signals for me is when Trump made his provocative remarks on immigration and then refused to apologize in the wake of overwhelming corporate and media opposition,” Beattie told the Chronicle, a newspaper at Duke.

Beattie wrote his doctoral thesis on Martin Heidegger, who was a member of the Nazi Party in Germany. Beattie has called Heidegger’s Nazi affiliation “highly troublesome” but maintained that his work is worthy of scholarly attention, according to a report by Forward magazine.