News & Politics

Who Is Ken Cuccinelli? A Primer on Trump’s New Immigration Bigwig

Ken Cuccinelli in 2013. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

President Trump plans to nominate Ken Cuccinelli to “coordinate the administration’s immigration policies,” the New York Times reports. Cuccinelli is no stranger to people who watch cable news, but he’s also a known quantity in this region, where he served as a state senator and Virginia’s attorney general and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He managed to make a lot of headlines in these roles even if his initiatives didn’t always work out. Here are just a few of the Cooch’s greatest hits.

That time he covered a naked breast on the Virginia state seal

In 2010 Cuccinelli gave his staff lapel pins that added a breastplate to the wardrobe of the Roman goddess Virtus. His spokesperson told a reporter his boss noted her “more modest attire“; he reportedly told his staff that the new outfit made Virtus “a little more virtuous.” “You can only conclude that he enjoys being the center of pointless controversy,” Larry Sabato said at the time.

That time he wanted to make speaking Spanish in the workplace a fireable offense

As a state senator, Cuccinelli introduced a proposal that would have sheltered employers who fired employees for not speaking English. “This is the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years down here,” state Senator Richard L. Saslaw told the Washington Post in 2008. Cuccinelli explained to the Post that he was merely looking out for employers who had to pay higher unemployment taxes after firing people for the language they spoke.

That time he advised public colleges they could discriminate against gays

Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia public colleges and universities in March 2010 that claimed Virginia law didn’t allow the terms “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policies. “How does this protect anyone?” a University of Virginia official told a Daily Progress reporter. “It only hurts people.” Virginia’s Republican governor overrode Cuccinelli after the letter became an object of national derision. “There can’t be any question I was right,” Cuccinelli told Washingtonian.

That time he suggested Virginia make a Beatles tune its state song

The Cooch inserted a footnote into the tortured history of Virginia’s state song when, as a state senator, he proposed “Taxman” should become the state song because Virginians “feel like all they ever get from Richmond is more taxes.”

That time he said gay sex is “intrinsically wrong” and breaks “natural law”

Cuccinelli said that while he had no problem with homosexuality, gay sex represented “behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.”

That time he “investigated” a University of Virginia scientist

When Cuccinelli was a student at the University of Virginia, he chugged a tumbler of bourbon and had shirts made up that read “yabba grabba brew.” As attorney general, he was decidedly less epic. Exhibit A: his “one-man war on the theory of man-made global warming,” as the New York Times put it, which took the form of hounding a former U.Va academic. The campaign was a total failure, and it cost the public school hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Cuccinelli told Washingtonian his pursuit of the scientist had nothing to do with climate change: “If they studied hammers, we would make the same sorts of inquiries,” he said.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.