Lady Liberty and the Pledge: The story behind the words Americans cherish

White House aide Stephen Miller told reporters the Statue of Liberty had little to do with immigrants.
White House aide Stephen Miller told reporters the Statue of Liberty had little to do with immigrants. AP

Only a Jerry Springer-type tussle or some Three Stooges-style slapping could have made the recent exchange between an advisor to President Trump and a correspondent for CNN more entertaining.

The skirmish was between Stephen Miller, the Duke-graduate policy advisor ever certain he is the smartest in the room, and Jim Acosta, the activist CNN journalist and son of a Cuban immigrant equally convinced of his own intellectual – and often moral – supremacy.

Miller was in the White House Press Room to further inflate the administration’s just-floated trial balloon of more restrictive immigration proposals. Acosta came with a note pad and hat pin. Maybe a spear.

“What the President is proposing here does not sound like it’s in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration,” Acosta asserted.

Larson Amelia Catherine Photography

“The Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” he chided, reciting lines from the iconic Emma Lazarus poem placed in the base of the monument.

“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here,” Miller replied, before getting off into a whole thing about history.

“The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty, and lighting the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later; is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Miller’s answer implied that because the “Give me your tired, your poor” of Ms. Lazarus was added later and wasn’t an original part of the statue itself, it is not an inherent part of Lady Liberty’s meaning.

Which brings me to The Pledge of Allegiance.

Its original intent was to indoctrinate American children to socialism. It was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister defrocked for preaching that Jesus was a socialist. Bellamy’s cousin, Edward, authored an 1888 “socialist fantasy” that envisioned America in the year 2000 having become a socialist utopia. Francis wrote the Pledge intending to help make his cousin’s vision come true.

This was the original Pledge Bellamy wrote, the way it was recited by American school kids for 60 years: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands – one nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.”

“Under God” was added later, in 1954, by Congress and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, to differentiate our country from atheistic communist nations.

All this about the Pledge is documented by authors including John W. Baer, who wrote “A Centennial History of the Pledge,” and legendary civil libertarian Nat Hentoff.

Jim Acosta’s bosses at CNN need to decide if he’s a journalist, or an advocate who should have a show opposite Sean Hannity.

Stephen Miller needs to explain where his dissertation, “Original Intent of the Statue of Liberty in Defense of Trumpian Immigration Policy,” and his thesis, “Words Added Later Don’t Count” – leave The Pledge of Allegiance.

And maybe the next time Miller and Acosta get together someone should bring a tray of pies.

Observer contributor Keith Larson can be heard on “The Larson Page” weekdays at Noon on ESPN Radio Charlotte (730 AM) and