Update (8/28/20 12:30 p.m.): Following this reporting by Media Matters, The New York Times reports that Emily Miller has been removed from her position as FDA spokesperson after just 11 days.
Emily Miller, who used to work for the pro-Trump propaganda outlet One America News, became the spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration in August, taking over a position “typically filled by nonpolitical civil servants.” Miller, who recently appeared on Sean Spicer’s Newsmax show identified as a “political strategist,” does not fit this description. She pushed COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories on Facebook and Twitter prior to taking over her new role, and she is a committed pro-Trump sycophant.
Miller’s hiring strikes another blow to the credibility of the FDA under President Donald Trump. The Trump White House has used political pressure on the FDA to deliver regulatory guidance that can be spun positively for the administration; this has eroded public trust at a time when agencies like the FDA need massive public cooperation to combat the pandemic. Rocked by recent scandals and high-level resignations from the agency, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn was recently forced to apologize after he “grossly mischaracterized” data measuring the effectiveness of convalescent plasma administered to patients who are ill with the virus.
In sum, Emily Miller is the dishonest partisan hack that you would hire if your intent was to spin and lie about FDA decisions.
More recently, Miller was a spokesperson for the Fort Bend County Coronavirus Public Information Task Force (Fort Bend is among Texas’s 10 counties with the most COVID fatalities).
As pharmaceutical companies move at a historic pace to develop a treatment for COVID-19, the public must be certain that communications from the agency tasked with regulating vaccines and therapeutics for the disease are free from political spin. Miller’s history as a player in far-right media — playing footsie with conspiracy theories and pushing partisan pro-Trump commentary — blows a massive hole through this fragile project.
Miller has spread COVID-19 misinformation and demonstrated a lack of basic understanding of the pandemic
Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, pointed out that a recent press release from the FDA stood out because of its political framing: It announced a highly controversial development in COVID therapeutics as an achievement of the Trump administration, which is unusual for an apolitical regulatory agency.
On Twitter, Miller defended the agency’s political framing.
From the official FDA spokesperson Twitter account, Miller tweeted a statistic that “grossly mischaracterized” available evidence, or lack thereof, regarding the efficacy of convalescent plasma, a misleading figure that FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized for and said was a misstatement. Despite his apology, she has yet to remove, let alone correct, this tweet.
Prior to becoming the FDA’s new spokesperson, Miller frequently pushed COVID-19 misinformation, callously downplayed the disease’s impact, and displayed ignorance about basic facts related to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 30, shortly after the United States officially passed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, she tweeted: “Remember coronavirus?”
Miller defended Trump’s use of the racist terms “Kung Flu” and “Chinese virus.”
Miller has downplayed the severity of COVID-19 even as its long term effects are still uncertain; she repeatedly said she is not afraid of contracting the virus.
In a Twitter exchange with billionaire investor Mark Cuban in July, she falsely claimed “there is zero scientific study to show there is long term health problems for covid patients.”
In fact, one in three COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized go on to experience long- term effects from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID “long-haulers” have formed support groups to help each other survive the disease’s diverse array of lingering effects. All of this information was publicly available at the time Miller sent the tweet.
In another exchange with Cuban, Miller claimed COVID-19 can be contained by isolating only the most at-risk populations and sending all others back to work. This approach does not work -- it ignores that young people are also at risk of getting sick and dying from the disease, and that scientific models show the most effective way to beat the virus is for the entire population to practice mitigation strategies such as social distancing.
She opposed compassionate release for federal prisoners in March. Prisons are the site of widespread and rapid transmission of COVID-19 due to lack of sanitary conditions and social distancing. Yet Miller said “federal prisons are the definition of shelter in place.”
In a May 12 appearance on former Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer’s Newsmax show, Miller praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s approach to reopening during the pandemic, claiming that “it’s working out really well here.” In June, Abbott was forced to reverse course due to massive spikes in caseloads across the state, even banning “elective surgeries to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients in certain counties that are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases.”
Miller defended Vice President Mike Pence for not wearing a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic in late April, then doubled down when others pointed out what Pence did was reckless.
She complained that the PGA tour was canceled in March because of COVID-19.
She tweeted on July 5 that she previously had not seen COVID-19 deaths in chart form.
Miller still did not seem to have a grasp on where to find reliable charts on key COVID metrics a few days later, instead replying to a Trump tweet with a chart she claimed to have made herself. On Facebook, she commented that she made the chart because the “media isn’t reporting it that way.”
Miller is a partisan, pro-Trump sycophant
In addition to spreading coronavirus misinformation, Miller is a pro-Trump sycophant who has pushed GOP talking points and even promoted Republican candidates, undermining her credibility as a reliable voice for unbiased information about the FDA’s work on combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Miller posted on Facebook in support of Trump after she appeared in a viral video laughing at testimony from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in front of the House Judiciary Committee in September 2019. She wrote, “I’m helping the effort to stop this nonsense effort by Democrats to impeach Pres. Trump for nothing.” She also reposted a Trump tweet attacking Democrats for “hurting our Country” to her Facebook.
Miller called Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush a “great, conservative leader” because he said he was voting for Trump in the election.
She tweeted in support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is facing reelection in November: “Mitch got all the judges and justices confirmed. He’s needed !”
In February, she shared an ad on Facebook for a Republican congressional candidate who touted Trump’s endorsement.
That same month, Miller tweeted in support of former Fox News contributor Ric Grenell when he was chosen to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, despite his partisan background.
Miller has flirted with right-wing conspiracy theories
She also dabbled in the right-wing media’s Seth Rich conspiracy theory and pushed other false claims from the far-right fringe.
Miller claimed on Facebook that the reason for global protests following the death of George Floyd was because of lockdown policies, writing, “I don’t think the unpaid protesters have the self awareness to know why they are so angry and out of control. The paid ones don’t care.” In a comment on her post, Miller wrote that “paid protesters just see dollars and don’t care reasoning” -- a conspiracy theory often promoted by right-wing media to undermine protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
In 2016, Miller did a package report for OANN that repeated debunked claims about the Center for Medical Progress’s bogus “investigation” into Planned Parenthood.
Miller is a former personality for the far-right, conspiratorial propaganda network One America News.
In 2013, she wrote a book based on a hoax she fabricated to spread lies about gun laws. The book was pushed by the National Rifle Association, boosted by Trump himself on Twitter, and published by Regnery Publishing, a conservative publishing house with ties to white nationalist movements. She’s also a former reporter for a local Fox affiliate in Washington, D.C., where she fabricated a Hillary Clinton quote and was described as a “strong advocate of the Second Amendment.” She also spent time as an opinion columnist for the conservative newspaper The Washington Times.