Words about tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free were not part of the original Statue of Liberty, White House aide Stephen Miller argued in a back-and-forth over immigration policy Wednesday. When CNN reporter Jim Acosta read a line from the famous Emma Lazarus poem on the statue's pedestal, noting that, unlike the Trump administration's immigration proposals, it makes no mention of being able to speak English or work as a computer programmer, Miller downplayed the historical significance of the poem, and, as the AP puts it, "suggested (the statue) had little to do with immigrants." The statue "is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world," he said. "The poem you were referring to was added later. It's not actually part of the (original) Statue of Liberty."
Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet in 1883 for an auction to raise money for a pedestal for the statue, a gift from France. It was inscribed on a bronze plaque at the statue in 1903. Later in the exchange, Acosta accused the Trump administration of "trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow and people into this country" with its proposals, which would sharply reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the US every year, the BBC reports. "Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you have ever said," Miller replied. "The notion that you think this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting." (Lady Liberty was originally designed as an Arab peasant woman.)