One of Donald Trump’s latest picks for his administration outed her gay brother to her parents before he died of AIDS in 1995, refusing to see him in his dying days and blaming his condition on paternal abuse her family said never happened.
On Friday, President-elect Trump announced he has selected as his deputy national security adviser Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland, who works as a Fox News commentator and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in New York to challenge Hillary Clinton for her U.S. Senate seat in 2006.
“I am proud that KT has once again decided to serve our country and join my national security team,” Trump said in a statement. “She has tremendous experience and innate talent that will complement the fantastic team we are assembling, which is crucial because nothing is more important than keeping our people safe.”
A Pentagon official in the Reagan administration, McFarland in 2006 sought to run against Clinton for her Senate seat and was considered a moderate in her bid for the Republican nomination.
A profile piece for New York Times Magazine in 2006, however, reported she “couldn’t abide” her brother being gay. The article unearthed a 1992 letter to her parents in which she reportedly outed her brother, Michael Troia, shortly after she discovered he had AIDS, blamed her family’s troubles as a result of childhood abuse.
“Have you ever wondered why I have never had anything to do with Mike and have never let my daughters see him although we live only fifteen minutes away from each other?” McFarland reportedly wrote. “He has been a lifelong homosexual, most of his relationships brief, fleeting one-night stands.”
Pressed about her brother by New York Magazine for the 2006 profile piece, all McFarland would reportedly say about him was “Ummmm. He was sick and then he died.” According to the article, McFarland said her memory of her father’s behavior toward her family surfaced as a recovered memory and a therapist put her up to writing the letter.
An obituary in The New York Times listed three “companions” for Michael Troia, who died of AIDS on June 8, 1995, and said after graduating from George Washington University he became a longtime credit analyst at Merrill Lynch, according to a report in The New York Post,
Seeking to tamp down the impact of the New York Magazine article, McFarland in other media reports — which cited advisers publicly fearing she would appear homophobic — emphasized she allegedly grew up in a physically abusive home.
”In seeking to put a painful past behind me, I wrote two candid letters to my parents in 1992 at the advice of a counselor,” McFarland said in a statement at the time. “Now, in the midst of a political campaign, those letters have found their way into the hands of a magazine reporter.”
In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, McFarland reportedly said she grew up in a home where from the age of 2 onward she was beaten and whipped with belts along with her brother. At times, McFarland reportedly said, her father would wave a gun in her face, threatening to kill the family.
After they grew up and left home, McFarland and her brother lived only a few miles apart in New York City from 1985 to 1995, but McFarland admitted she largely cut him out of her life after she learned he had HIV and refused to let her young children see him.
“I was really living a life of going to Central Park with my kids, and he was increasingly living — there was no secret about it — he was openly gay,” McFarland was quoted as saying. “I had no problem with that, I loved him. But I was increasingly concerned because he talked about a very promiscuous lifestyle. And it saddened me a great deal.”
During the interview, McFarland reportedly denied the abuse made him gay, but said it contributed to his reported “promiscuity.”
“I think the abuse absolutely affected his riskier behavior, his more promiscuous — I don’t want to use the word self-destructive — is there another word like that?” McFarland reportedly said. “I don’t think it’s something that made him gay; he was always gay. That stuff leaves emotional scars on everybody, and everybody copes with it in different ways.”
According to the New York Times, McFarland said her brother was often sick during the 1990s and she would visit him at his home or the hospital, but she didn’t have any contact with him during the last two years of his life.
“Do I wish I spent more time with him? Of course I do,” McFarland is quoted as saying. “It’s the great regret that I have of my adult life, that I didn’t spend more time with him, that I was not with him in his final months.”
McFarland’s parents reportedly denied the household was abusive. The New York Magazine profile piece quotes McFarland’s mother, Edith Troia, denying the account and accusing the publication of “casting dark shadows on this whole race.”
A New York Post reporter seeking comment went to the Madison, Wis., home of McFarland’s father, Augie Troia, who denied at the time he had abused his family. After telling the reporter “you know darn well I never did any of that” and offering to take a lie detector test to verify his story, Troia threatened him, saying “you’d better get out of here or they’re going to carry you out of here,” the Post reported.
Also at the time, McFarland’s brother, Tom Troia, of Janesville, Wis., accused McFarland of lying about family abuse in an interview with the New York Post, saying, “If I had one word to describe my sister, it would be ‘evil.’”
Asked by the New York Post why McFarland would make up charges her father abused her family, Tom Troia reportedly said, “Evil needs no reason.” Although Tom Troia acknowledged his siblings growing up were sometimes spanked — sometimes with a belt — for misbehavior, he said the punishment “was on an acceptable level of the time. McFarland never threatened the family with a gun, Tom Troia said, because there was never one in the house.
McFarland in 2006 would end up the losing the race for the Republican nomination to run for U.S. Senate in New York to John Spencer, a former mayor of Yonkers whom the state Republican Party organization endorsed. Before the primary, McFarland dropped out of the race following news that her 16-year-old daughter was charged with petty theft and possession of stolen goods after being caught shoplifting.
The Trump transition team didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether McFarland’s views of gay people have changed or whether the president-elect is OK with the way she treated her brother. McFarland also didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article.
McFarland’s relationship with her family is but one controversial aspect of Trump’s addition to his team. At the time of her Senate bid, the New York Post reported McFarland maintained two voting addresses in the period between 1996 to 2006, which could be a felony. Additionally, McFarland claimed helicopters were flying over her home taking pictures and were sent by Clinton because she was so worried about the challenge to her seat, although McFarland later said she was joking.
As a Defense Department official, McFarland also was accused of exaggerating her contribution to President Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech and her claims of being the highest-ranking woman in Reagan’s Pentagon. The latter was demonstrably not true because there were two other women with ranks higher than hers.
According to Media Matters, McFarland as a Fox News commentator made dubious claims, such as saying the Benghazi CIA compound under attack in 2012 didn’t receive additional security because Chris Stevens couldn’t contact Clinton via a State Department email address. Requests for security do “not rise to the level of the secretary of state” and it’s not unusual for ambassadors to not have the email address of a secretary of state, according to the Council for Foreign Relations.
In a discussion about the Iran nuclear deal, McFarland made a racially tinged comment, suggesting Saudi Arabia is dishonest about supporting the agreement because “they’re Arabs” and “not going to say to your face something that they know is going to upset you.”
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization opposes the outing of gay people, but vouched for McFarland based on the experience he’s had with her over the years.
“Log Cabin Republicans opposes outing, and always has,” Angelo said. “Beyond that, family matters should be left to families to work out. All I can say is that my interactions with KT over the years — and there have been many, from my time as chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State to CPAC to today — have always shown me KT supports a big-tent approach to politics.”