News outlets are reporting that another presidential administration staffer with strong anti-Islamist leanings, Sebastian Gorka has now followed in Steve Bannon’s footsteps to the exit door of the White House on 8/25/17.
NOTE: The following is background information on Sebastian Gorka based on one of my previous posts.
One day the history books are not going to let President Donald Trump, his surrogates and fellow republicans get away with denying their complicity towards the racist alt-right’s influence in their politics. President Trump’s denial of antisemitism in its midst no longer holds up under scrutiny.
The presence of Sebastian Gorka had added to the white nationalist atmosphere in the White House. He had been referred to be a presidential adviser by his former boss at the alt-right website Breitbart, Steve Bannon. It certainly wasn’t his scholarship which gained him entry into the White House as a Middle East expert. There is no sugar coating his departure and yes, he was forced out.
Here’s the rest of the story…
According to a 3/17/17 Foreign Policy article by Daniel Nexon, Sebasian Gorka is a terrible scholar. “Gorka’s own credentials have come under scrutiny. Before his appointment, he was not a well-known figure among terrorism experts. A report in Politico noted that “several experts … puzzled over the gap between the numerous military academic credentials listed by Gorka — a political science Ph.D. who unfailingly uses the title ‘Dr.’ — and their unfamiliarity with his work and views.”
“This dovetails with a number of reports that raise doubts about his knowledge of Islam and terrorism, as well as about his ties to Hungarian far-right groups — including one, Vitezi Rend, whose members “‘are presumed to be inadmissible’ to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act” — and his claim to have access to confidential information within the White House, despite no confirmation that he has security clearance. The biggest concern: Despite casting himself as an expert on radical jihadi ideology, Gorka does not speak Arabic and has spent no time in the Middle East.”
On 4/8/17, Alexander Smith and Vladimir Banic of NBC News penned the following report, “Sebastian Gorka Made Nazi-Linked Vitezi Rend ‘Proud’ by Wearing Its Medal.”
“A group with alleged historical links to Nazi Germany has told NBC News it was “proud” when President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant wore its medal.”
“Controversy has swirled around Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s top counter-terrorism advisers, ever since he attended the president’s Jan. 20 Inaugural Ball wearing the honorary medal of Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend.”
“NBC News traveled to Hungary to dig deeper into Gorka’s ties with the group, speaking with members of the organization as well as with locals who knew him when he lived there.”
“When he appeared on U.S. television … with the medal of the Vitez Order … it made me really proud,” Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Horvath said in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Vitezi Rend is also known as the Order Vitezi Rend.
“Three people, including one of Gorka’s former political allies, said he was a well-known member of Vitezi Rend back in Hungary, a charge he strongly denies.”
“Gorka’s decision to wear the medal — which he said was awarded to his Hungarian-born father — has provoked outrage among Jewish groups.”
“While in Budapest, NBC News also spoke with Andras Heisler, the Hungarian vice-president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, who said that wearing the medal “isn’t a good message for a democratic society.”
Under the Direction of Nazis
“Vitezi Rend was founded in 1920 by Hungarian ruler Miklos Horthy to award medals to Hungarian veterans of World War I. But the group’s history became murky after the country allied with Nazi Germany in 1938.”
“Heisler told NBC News that members of the organization were likely complicit in the murder of some of the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews toward the end of World War II.”
During the war, the State Department listed Vitezi Rend among a group of “organizations under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.” And Horthy, its founder, once said that “I have always been an anti-Semite throughout my life,” according to “The Jews of Hungary,” a 1995 book by Hungarian-Jewish historian Raphael Patai.”
“The Soviet-allied communist government outlawed Vitezi Rend when they took control of the country after the war. But since then, several private organizations have emerged claiming to be the true successors of the group and its ideals.”
“Horvath, the spokesman interviewed by NBC News, represents the most prominent modern-day faction. He vehemently denied his organization of 5,000 members is anti-Semitic or extremist, although he conceded that his group has no Jewish members.”
“Similarly, Gorka has denied he has ever been a sworn-in member of Vitezi Rend — whose name translates to “valiant order.”
“In several statements to the media, he has explained that he wore the medal to honor his late father, Paul Gorka, who was awarded it for his fight against communism during Hungary’s period of communist rule. He has given a similar reasoning for occasionally using the initial “v.” in his name — a mark used by Vitezi Rend members to show the order has been bestowed upon them.”
“Last month, three Vitezi Rend officialstold American-Jewish newspaper The Forward that Sebastian Gorka was one of their order.”
“The reports about Gorka prompted the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, an American civil-rights group, to call for Sebastian Gorka’s resignation.”
“How many ducks in the Trump White House must walk, talk and quack Anti-Semitically before our country wakes up and sees the greater problem?” it told NBC News in a statement. “Who among us wears a medal of a Nazi-sympathetic organization to remember loved ones?”
“When asked about the allegations in NBC News’ investigation, Sebastian Gorka dismissed them as “fake news” and pointed to a statement he gave to online Jewish magazine Tablet last month.”
“I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend,” he told the publication. “Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.”
“He told NBC News he “completely distanced myself” from any white-supremacist or Nazi ideology.”
“This is, in the various ranks of the order, an advanced level,” he said, his own Vitezi Rend medal on proud display.’
“The 69-year-old was speaking on the banks of the Danube river in Hungary’s storied post-Soviet capital, where some buildings still bear bullet-holes from a failed anti-Soviet revolution in 1956.”
“Paul Gorka “was more than an average Vitezi member … I had good experiences and conversations with [him],” the spokesman said, his grey hair and trimmed moustache matching his relaxed yet matter-of-fact demeanor.”
“He explained that the first sons of Vitezi Rend members can either choose hereditary membership or to apply in their own names.”
“The membership can be inherited by the children and this membership enters into force when they participate in an inauguration ceremony,” said Molár-Gazsó, the captain of the other Vitezi Rend group.”
The Road to Piliscsaba
“Sebastian Gorka, 47, was born in London in 1970 to Hungarian parents and gained American citizenship in 2012. Before finding his seat in the president’s inner-circle, he spent years in his parents’ former homeland in the 1990s and 2000s.”
“After interviewing Horvath and Heisler in Budapest, NBC News drove 14 miles north to the small, sleepy town of Piliscsaba, where several prominent locals alleged that Sebastian Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend.”
“Everybody knew that he was member of the Order of Vitez,” according to Csaba Gáspár, who came in second that day but later became mayor between 2010 and 2014.”
“This was corroborated by one of Sebastian Gorka’s political allies during that campaign.”
‘‘I knew that Sebastian Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend, even then,” said Dr. Gabor Solti, a respected Hungarian geologist who ran for the town council on Sebastian Gorka’s ticket in 2006. Solti, who served as mayor between 2009 and 2010, is not known to be a member of the group.
“Although the three people NBC News interviewed in the town said emphatically that Sebastian Gorka made no effort to hide his membership while he campaigned in the town, they did not provide any evidence of their claims.”
“Picturesque Piliscsaba couldn’t contrast more with Sebastian Gorka’s current environs of Washington, D.C.”
“A regular line of cars run along the two-lane road that cuts the town in half, but most are just passing through, stopping for little more than a bathroom break.”
“A large Catholic church next to a cake shop marks the center of the town, which is surrounded by rolling green hills.”
Erika Laszlo also knew Sebastian Gorka during his failed mayoral bid. Back then, she was the chairwoman of a local environmentalist group called For Piliscsaba, and as part of the group’s activities she wrote leaflets about the campaign.
The Gorkas’ controversial past does not end with the father and son.
In the 1980s, Sebastian Gorka’s mother, Susan Gorka, worked as a translator for David Irving, the discredited British historian who caused outrage by suggesting the Holocaust did not happen, or was at least greatly exaggerated.
A British judge ruled in 2000 that Irving was a “Holocaust denier … anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.” And in 2006, he was sentenced to three years on prison in Austria on charges of denying the Holocaust.
Irving wrote an email to NBC News describing his warm working relationship with Susan Gorka.
“His mother was very helpful, checked translations in the 1980s and tapes of interviews,” Irving said. “My impression of both Gorkas (Susan and Paul) was at all times good.”
“NBC News attempted to ask Sebastian Gorka about his mother’s involvement with Irving but he declined to answer.”
V is for Vitezi
“In addition to wearing the group’s medal, Sebastian Gorka has occasionally used the initial “v.” in his name — short for Vitezi. He claimed this was merely something to honor his father, but experts interviewed by NBC News were in no doubt that it signified his membership.”
“I called him Vitez, firstly because he used to call himself Vitez while being in Hungary,” according to Gabor Horvath, managing editor of Hungary’s Nepszava newspaper. “And second to let the readers know that anyone claiming to belong to the order … it means that he is a right-wing conservative.”
“Gabor Horvath knew all too well that the “v.” indicated someone was a Vitezi Rend member — his own grandfather belonged to the order. He too could have inherited the title had it not been for his father marrying a Jewish woman and breaking the family lineage.”
“In theory I might have been Vitezi myself … not that I wanted to,” he said, speaking in his newsroom back in Budapest. “The original charter of the order prescribed a Christian family life.”
“Paul Gorka was born in Budapest in 1930. As a 15-year-old boy in 1944, he “fought with a submachine gun through the ruins of the Hungarian capital,” according to Sebastian Gorka’s 2016 book”Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.”
He didn’t specify which side his father fought on — Soviet or Nazi — but a large part of Paul Gorka’s life thereafter was dedicated to fighting against the former.”
“After the war, Paul Gorka joined Hungary’s underground anti-Soviet resistance. He was caught, jailed and tortured, according to his son’s account, but then broke free during the failed revolution of 1956.”
“It was these anti-Soviet acts that earned him the medal in 1979.”
“Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s wartime leader and the founder of Vitezi Rend, remains a divisive figure even today. Some say he attempted to protect Hungarian Jews, others point to a series of anti-Semitic laws he passed and claim his actions led to the deaths of tens of thousands.”
“Similarly, the actions of Vitezi Rend’s original members are the source of some disagreement.”
“The spokesmen for the two modern-day factions said their predecessors were not complicit in the deportation of at least 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps in 1944.”
“But many experts disagree.”
“Vitezi Rend had a lot of anti-Semitic, racist members,” according to Heisler, the vice-president of the World Jewish Congress. “The organization had some members who were actors in the killing of the Jews,” as well as taking Jewish property, he said.
“Historian Eva S. Balogh fled Hungary to the U.S. in 1956 before gaining her Ph.D. and teaching at Yale. She said that “the likelihood that a good number of the (Vitezi) Order’s members embraced the ideas of Hitler is fairly strong.”
Almost “the entire Hungarian high command belonged to the (Vitezi) Order,” according to Balogh, who also runs the news website Hungarian Spectrum and has written extensively about the Gorkas. She said that these Hungarian elites “were avid supporters of Germany and Germany’s war efforts.”
“Today’s Vitezi Rend members, according to Balogh, follow the same “ethical and moral code” as their predecessors in the 1920s — “ardent nationalism, a fostering of Hungarian military traditions (and) an attraction to right-wing ideologies.”
(Besides his association with Vitezi Rend), “it is Mr. Gorka’s credentials as a counter-terrorism expert (that) have also been called into question.”
“Before joining Trump’s team, he served in the British Army Territorial Reserves, worked as an adviser at Hungary’s Ministry of Defense, offered his expertise as a think-tank analyst, and worked as an editor at the right-wing news websit.
“The New York Times has been among his outspoken critics in this regard. A headline in a Times opinion piece described Sebastian Gorka as “the Islamorphobic huckster in the White House” and criticized his worldview of seeing “Islam as the problem, rather than the uses to which Islam has been put by violent extremists.”
“He got his masters degree and his Ph.D. from the Corvinus University in Hungary. The Corvinus University is not a center for national security studies.”