The Anti-Defamation League has called on Sebastian Gorka, a senior aide to President Donald Trump, to clearly disavow “the message and outlook” of anti-Semitic organizations such as those he worked with while living in Hungary.
Gorka, whose political activities with veterans of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party and other anti-Semitic organizations and activists were detailed in a Forward investigation Friday, is one of President Trump’s key advisors on countering jihadist violence. Through television appearances he has also emerged as one of Trump’s most visible defenders on issues both foreign and domestic.
In its statement responding to the Forward’s findings that Gorka earlier chose to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures while seeking to launch a political career in Hungary, Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in a statement, “We are deeply disturbed at the allegations that the Deputy Assistant to the President, Sebastian Gorka, may have had close ties to openly racist and anti-Semitic hate groups and figures while he was active in Hungarian politics… It is essential that Mr. Gorka make it clear that he disavows the message and outlook of far-right parties such as Jobbik, which has a long history of stoking anti-Semitism in Hungary.”
Gorka also came in for criticism from Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, who said he found the Forward’s revelations “shocking.”
Gorka’s “role as a senior advisor to the President raises serious concerns about whether Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with extremist and bigoted viewpoints in his administration, and how much influence these voices have on Mr. Trump,” Nadler said in an email exchange with the Forward.
Gorka, who was born in London to parents who fled Hungary’s post-World War II Communist regime, served in a British military intelligence unit as a young man, but moved to Hungary in 1992, after the fall of Communism, and lived there until 2008. Married to an American, he moved to the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 2012.
In its report, focusing on his activities in Hungary between 2006 and 2008, the Forward found that Gorka’s involvement with the far right included co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party well-known for its anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.
When asked about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he worked with, Gorka referenced his own family’s personal history. “My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.
Today, a protégé of Trump’s chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, Gorka sits with Bannon and other members of Trump’s inner circle on the president’s newly formed Strategic Initiatives Group, an in-house think tank that is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.
A request for comment from the White House about Gorka’s activities in Hungary went unanswered. But Eliot Cohen, who served as a counselor to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during the George W. Bush administration, told the Forward,
This adds another, and even more troubling dimension to the story of an adviser on terrorism with extreme and views, a bombastic style and a thin skin. But a foreign politician? And one with some unsavory extreme right connections to boot? If it were not the Trump administration one would not believe it. But alas, it appears to be the truth.
Larry Cohler-Esses is assistant managing editor for special projects with responsibility for investigative and enterprise projects. He joined the staff in December 2008. Previously, he served as Editor-at-Large for the Jewish Week, an investigative reporter for the New York Daily News, and as a staff writer for the Jewish Week as well as the Washington Jewish Week. Larry has written extensively on the Arab-Jewish relations both in the United States and the Middle East. His articles have won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists, the Religious Newswriters Association, the New York Press Association and the Rockower Awards for Jewish Journalism, among others. Larry Cohler-Esses can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.