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This month, Stephen Miller, the extremist anti-immigrant Trump adviser who has promoted white nationalist ideas, lost a relative to the coronavirus pandemic, and his uncle tells Mother Jones that the Trump administration is partly to blame for this death.
On July 4, David Glosser, the brother of Miller’s mother, posted a Facebook note announcing the death of his mother, Ruth Glosser, who was Miller’s maternal grandmother:
This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old. She survived the acute infection but was left with lung and neurological damage that destroyed her will to eat and her ability to breathe well enough to sustain arousal and consciousness. Over an 8-week period she gradually slipped away and died peacefully this morning.
David Glosser is a retired neuropsychologist and passionate Trump critic who has publicly decried Miller for his anti-immigrant policies, and he contends that Trump’s initial “lack of a response” to the coronavirus crisis led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans who might have otherwise survived. In an interview, he says, “With the death of my mother, I’m angry and outraged at [Miller] directly and the administration he has devoted his energy to supporting.”
In response to a request seeking comment from Miller, a White House spokesperson sent Mother Jones this statement:
This is categorically false, and a disgusting use of so-called journalism when the family deserves privacy to mourn the loss of a loved one. His grandmother did not pass away from COVID. She was diagnosed with COVID in March and passed away in July so that timeline does not add up at all. His grandmother died peacefully in her sleep from old age. I would hope that you would choose not to go down this road.
Glosser, a former health professional, posted his mother’s death announcement on a public Facebook page. Responding to the White House statement, he writes in an email, “Keeping the tragic facts about COVID deaths of our countrymen and women, young and old, from the American public serves no purpose other than to obscure the need for a coherent national, scientifically based, public health response to save others from this disease. My mother led a long, satisfying, productive life of family and community service. She had nothing to be ashamed of, and concealing her cause of death to offer ‘privacy’ to me, our family, her hundreds of relatives and friends, does nothing to assuage our regret at her loss.”
Moreover, Ruth Glosser’s death certificate—which her son shared with Mother Jones—lists her cause of death as “respiratory arrest” resulting from “COVID-19.”
Informed that Ruth Glosser’s death certificate cited COVID-19, the White House spokesperson replied, “Again, this is categorically false. She had a mile [sic] case of COVID-19 in March. She was never hospitalized and made a full and quick recovery.”
Miller has played a role in the Trump White House’s ineffectual response to the coronavirus crisis. He was credited with helping to write the Oval Office address Trump delivered on March 11 that was widely panned. In that speech, Trump branded the coronavirus as the “foreign virus” and downplayed the damage already caused by it. He hailed his administration’s actions regarding the growing pandemic, ignoring his recent and repeated efforts to dismiss the threat posed by the virus. Trump announced in this speech that he would suspend all travel from Europe to the United States—a statement that caused panic, as Americans overseas rushed back to the United States and ended up in crammed and unsafe conditions at US airports. (The ban only applied to foreign citizens.) In the months since, Miller has attempted to exploit the pandemic to implement anti-immigration measures.
On Facebook, Glosser described his 97-year-old mother as “a scholar, a social worker, and the teacher of a generation of social work students in Western Pennsylvania” who “founded and administered a foster parent’s program for children with special needs in Johnstown.” He added, “Her passion was the careful documentation of the Glosser family and its flight from Czarist persecution in what is now Belarus to life and freedom in the USA. An ardent advocate of education, women’s rights, and the struggle for civil rights in the USA.” In an addendum to the post, he pointed out that she had depended on immigrants for her health care:
I neglected to mention that in mom’s declining years she was lovingly cared for by health aides nurses, and doctors from India, Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, Korea, El Salvador, Uganda, and Nigeria. Immigrants all of them. I am indebted to them for helping us through some very difficult times. Without them there would be no one to take care of our elderly.
Glosser tells me that he tacked on this comment to register a political point: “I wanted to make it clear the best I can that the message the Trump administration pumps out—that immigrants who come here spread death, destruction, disease, and murder—is wrong. We were those people not too long ago. That’s the story of America.”
Ruth Glosser was living in an assisted living facility in the Los Angeles area. According to her son, she contracted COVID-19 in early March, when the facility was low on tests and PPE. One or more of the staff, he says, were asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and the disease spread quickly through the facility. “She had what might be regarded as a weak case,” Glosser notes. “She survived the immediate acute effects but lost 20 pounds within a few weeks and was very much weakened.” His mother was hit hard by the neurological side effects and soon began a slow decline: “She lost the will to eat because of enormous fatigue, enormous confusion, and the loss of her sense of smell and taste, and her lungs continued to deteriorate. Finally, she could not sustain a level of oxygen to remain conscious. In accordance with her living will, the oxygen was withdrawn. She basically fell asleep and died.”
Like many other relatives of COVID-19 patients, Glosser found the hardest part of this loss was that he could not visit her because the facility had gone into lockdown: “We did the best we could with phone calls and the occasional FaceTime. But as time went by, her ability to focus and to breath and talk diminished. I could get only a few words. ‘I love you.’ But there was no chance to hold her hand and help her go out easy.”
Glosser has long been a foe of the Trump administration and his nephew. Shortly before the 2016 election, in a letter to a Pennsylvanian newspaper, he criticized Miller for engineering Trump’s assault on immigration. “My nephew and I,” he said, “must both reflect long and hard on one awful truth. If in the early 20th century the USA had built a wall against poor desperate ignorant immigrants of a different religion, like the Glossers, all of us would have gone up the crematoria chimneys with the other six million kinsmen whom we can never know.” He explains that this letter was written at the behest of several family members to disassociate the family from Miller.
In 2018, Glosser penned a piece for Politico headlined “Stephen Miller is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.” He wrote: “I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country. I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses—the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants—been in effect when Wolf-Leib [Glosser] made his desperate bid for freedom” and fled anti-Jewish pogroms for the United States.
In response to Miller and his now-wife setting up a wedding gift registry in February, Glosser sent a donation to a refugee relief organization and posted a not-too-subtle explanation on Facebook:
I’ll be making a contribution to HIAS, a world wide agency that serves to protect refugees and helped to rescue my family from Czarist oppression in the Russian Empire in 1906. Had our refugee forebears not been helped to emigrate to the USA, they and their children would have been murdered by the racial madness of Nazism; as were the 74 of our relatives who were shut out of America by the race/religion based immigration exclusion act of 1925 enacted by the “America First” populists of the day. Protect the refugee and welcome the stranger…they built America.
Glosser notes that he has watched the Trump administration’s management—or mismanagement—of the pandemic with dismay, calling it “chaotic, incompetent, uninformed, and entirely politically motivated.” Trump, he asserts, “is interested in only one thing—his political survival… His initial response to the epidemic was denial, distraction, misinformation, propaganda and lies.”
Glosser says that he cannot blame Trump for the fact that his mother was 97 years old and frail, but he insists “Trump and his enablers bear tremendous responsibility for the failure to respond and their continued unwillingness to do what public health experts say must be done.” An effective response, he notes, might have limited the number of deaths to 20,000: “So Trump bears substantial responsibility for the deaths of over 100,000 Americans who didn’t need to die, including my mother.”
What is it like to have a family member in the middle of this failure? Glosser describes his nephew as “an ambitious kid” who “for some reason decided to become infatuated with the idea of white supremacy” and who has been obsessed with gaining power and influence. Miller, Glosser maintains, “sees Trump as a useful idiot in his quest to advance his white power agenda…He has been able to use Trump to advance his political vendetta against the world.” Glosser is not surprised that Miller has been part of the Trump administration’s coronavirus failure: “He has no ability to demonstrate empathy.”
Ruth Glosser, according to David Glosser, was highly “disturbed” when Trump became president: “She was terribly torn between the normal love for grandchildren and horror at the racist content of Trump’s policies and Stephen’s role in it.” He says he has not heard from Miller since his mother died. But that is no shocker. He has not spoken to Miller since the 2016 campaign.