CNN’s newest pundit is John Miller, a former top New York police officer with a history of misleading the public.
Miller will join the network as the chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. The move appears to be part of a larger right-ward shift and very public identity crisis at CNN, as new CEO Chris Licht has pushed out high-profile on-air talent that was critical of Donald Trump. (CNN also hired CBS’s Dr. Tara Narula as a medical correspondent.)
Miller is a prominent example of the revolving door between law enforcement and media, having been both a journalist and NYPD spokesperson over the course of his career. He also epitomizes the danger of treating law enforcement as neutral or reliable sources of information, rather than propagandists. Miller’s long history of deceiving the public is strong evidence that Licht’s reign at CNN will be defined by attempts to win favor with conservatives rather than inform the network’s audience.
In March, Miller – still serving in his official police role as deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism – lied to the New York City Council and claimed that “there is no evidence” the NYPD spied on Muslim communities after 9/11. Muslim leaders and advocacy groups were outraged at the false claim and demanded that Mayor Eric Adams censure Miller as a consequence. Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, the city council’s only Muslim member, called on District Attorney Alvin Bragg to investigate Miller for possible perjury for the remarks. Adams later contradicted Miller, admitting that the NYPD did in fact spy on Muslims after 9/11 and saying of the department, “What we did was wrong.”
That wasn’t Miller’s only foray into Islamophobia. In 2016, he denied allegations that the NYPD violated its own surveillance policy in targeting Muslims. “If you’re investigating al Qaeda, and TTP and ISIL plots against New York City, your investigating targets are going to be who they are,” Miller said, referring to the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State, as reported by Reuters.
Then, in 2020, he wrote an op-ed for The Daily News to hype the threat that Iran and Hezbollah pose to the city. The headline read in part, “How Iran Can Endanger New York,” and was a combination of exaggerating a single terrorism prosecution and standard alarmist boilerplate.
“Whether it is Iran, Hezbollah, Al Qaida or ISIS, the terrorists will continue to focus on New York as the media capital of the world as well as America’s safest big city,” Miller wrote.
The prosecution he highlighted later ended with the jury delivering a mixed verdict after members were unable to agree that the defendant had provided material support to a terrorist organization.
Still, in the op-ed, Miller insisted that a proposed oversight bill would put New Yorkers in danger, arguing that it risked “taking one step forward and two steps back.”
The op-ed was part of a long-running opposition campaign Miller and the NYPD had waged against that bill, known as the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act. In 2017, members of the New York City Council introduced the legislation, which would’ve required the NYPD to disclose the type of spying equipment it bought and how the department used it. Miller referred to the bill as “insane” and “an effective blueprint for those seeking to do us harm,” according to The Intercept.
Earlier this year, Miller appeared on a far-right radio show hosted by failed NYC mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis to argue in favor of harsh bail guidelines. New York City implemented moderate bail reform in 2019, eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors, but Gov. Kathy Hochul later rolled back much of the laws. Miller argued that the rollbacks didn’t go far enough, saying, “Those need to be adjusted again.” He had previously appeared on another Catsimatidis radio show in 2020 to brag, in part, about officers arresting people for marijuana offenses in the Upper West Side.
Miller also offered a full-throated defense of a Crown Heights precinct which displayed an Ernest Hemmingway quote on its wall that some city council members saw as offensive and racist. “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter,” the quote read, which was first reported by Gothamist.
“To insinuate any meaning to the Hemingway quote other than the fact that tracking and arresting violent, armed criminals can be exhilarating, rewarding, and often dangerous is a disservice to the meaning of the Hemingway quote and to the officers who do this work,” Miller told Gothamist in an email.
Miller’s poor judgment and insensitivity has been a constant throughout his entire career. In 1994, he served as a source for a piece written by Daily News columnist Mike McAlary that cast doubt on a claim by a Black woman that she had been raped in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
“Citing unnamed police sources, Mr. McAlary, who died of cancer in 1998, said investigators believed the woman had fabricated the story to promote a gay and lesbian rally,” according to a summary of the piece by The New York Times.
“Investigators then allowed the case to languish for decades after a lab report showed they had been wrong,” the paper reported in 2018, when the perpetrator was finally identified through DNA evidence.
Miller later apologized for his role in smearing the woman, which she found insufficient. “I am very disappointed that John Miller has never been held accountable for the unconscionable statements he made,” the woman said, according to The New York Times.