Rosie Gray has a fascinating piece in Buzzfeed on the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of Katie McHugh, who went from darling of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart to unemployable pariah in the world of what passes for even marginally respectable journalism (an astonishingly catholic category at the moment, given that Breitbart is still in it).
McHugh’s story is horrifying and pathetic in equal measures, and readers can decide for themselves to what extent her bid for some sort of redemption is sincere.
One striking aspect of Gray’s narrative is how it highlights that you don’t have to connect very many dots these days to get from the pillars of establishment conservatism to the sewers of the alt-right.
Here’s how McHugh got her start in journalism:
In the spring of 2011, Katie McHugh was a student at Allegheny College. She grew up in western Pennsylvania and was attending the region’s oldest private college but wanted to make it to Washington and join the conservative movement. She was a quiet young woman who hadn’t ventured very far from where she’d grown up. Her reading had taken her to some unusual places, however, for a young person.
She’d become a devotee of Joe Sobran, the late Catholic columnist who was fired from National Review after falling out with William F. Buckley and whose writings deeply influenced the paleoconservative movement, which emphasizes nationalism and noninterventionism. Over the course of his career, Sobran’s writing on Israel and Jews became extreme, and he associated with Holocaust deniers and questioned Holocaust history. McHugh had liked Ron Paul, for whom she was slightly too young to vote in 2008, so a friend at church had told her to read Sobran’s “The Reluctant Anarchist.” . . .
In 2011 she applied for an internship with the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), a nonprofit connected to George Mason University that promotes “classical liberalism” and libertarianism on college campuses and grants fellowships to students.
“I reviewed your application,” wrote John Elliott, the IHS journalism internship program’s director at the time, in an email to her in February of that year. “You are the first applicant to ever list Joe Sobran as an influence. Joe was a friend. He had the same influence on me. I was delighted to find a young journalist who has profited from his work.”
Note that IHS and George Mason are both as respectable as it gets in conservative DC circles. These institutions couldn’t be further removed from the racists and anti-Semites in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” as John Elliott, Columbia Ph.D. etc. makes clear in his response to Gray’s queries:
“I chose Katie to mentor as a libertarian, not as a member of the ‘alt-right,’” Elliott said in an email. “The ‘alt-right’ didn’t exist in 2011, and I’ve had no connection with the ‘alt-right’ since it was invented. I tried to be a mentor and a friend to Katie for a decade, even as she went down some of the dark paths of those fringe groups. But her decision to go down those paths had nothing to do with me. I truly feel bad for her.”
Yeah that sure is a sad story there, Johnny boy. You tried to school her the best you could, but kids these days . . . Hey wait a second:
Concurrently, she began dating Kevin DeAnna. The two met in July 2013, according to McHugh, at a going-away party in Alexandria, Virginia, for a mutual friend leaving a conservative group. Her double life was already developing because of her relationship with DeAnna and her connection to Elliott, who invited her to a dinner with the British Holocaust denier David Irving in 2013.
“David irving is in Washington. I had lunch with him in the Archives. He is speaking at 6:30 near Du Pont Circle. Are you interested?” Elliott wrote to her in an email in November 2013. (It was the first of three dinners she would attend with Irving over the course of her time in DC, though she claims she did not know who he was before the first one. Elliott, in an email, said he’d met Irving when he worked as a researcher and attended dinner with him because he’s “interesting and controversial,” not because Elliott endorses his views.)
Oh heavens no! Just because you’re setting up a dinner where the guest of honor is the world’s most famous Holocaust denier and hero of neo-Nazi fanboys everywhere, that doesn’t mean you endorse his views or anything. This is all about free inquiry, and fighting against PC orthodoxy something something Hayek Ayn Rand Paul Oberlin Bell Curve Sullivan Greenwald Intellectual Dark Web Trump.