Counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka was already a controversial member of President Donald Trump‘s team. Now, the London-born author is being accused of having membership in the Nazi-affiliated, Hungarian group Vitézi Rend. Leaders of the group told Foreward.com that Gorka is a “sworn member.”
In an interview with TabletMag.com, Gorka insisted that he has never been a member of Vitez Rand.
“I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism,” Gorka said.
The 46-year-old Gorka is a member of Trump’s Strategic Initiatives group, alongside Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. He previously worked for Bannon as the National Security Affairs editor of Brietbart from 2014 to 2016.
Here’s a look at Gorka.
1. Vitézi Rend Leaders Say Gorka Is a ‘Sworn Member’ of the Group, Which Is Linked to the Nazis
Leaders of the Vitezi Rend (or Order of Vitez in English) group told Foreward.com that Gorka is a “sowrn member.” The site notes that the State Department considers the group as “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.
The group was established in 1920 by Miklos Horthy, who was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to 1944 and cooperated with the Nazi government. After the war, the Order of Vitez was one of the pro-Hitler groups banned.
On the night of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, Gorka was seen wearing the badge of the Order of Vitez, a medal that was formally abolished by the Hungarian government by 1948. Gorka’s father received one from Hungarian exiles in 1979 and Gorka has claimed that he wears it to honor the memory of his father, who fled Hungary.
Leaders of the group told Forward.com that he took a lifelong oath of loyalty to the group. The site contacted Gorka for a comment, but he never responded.
Buzzfeed contacted Gorka. “Send a request to White House press,” he told the site.
When asked why Gorka didn’t just tell Forward.com that the allegations were false, a source told TabletMag.com, “These guys genuinely believed that the allegations were so blatantly false and so aggressively poorly-sourced, that no responsible journalist would ever publish them. Is Seb Gorka, whose family literally bears the scars of anti-fascist fights, a secret Nazi cultist? Come on now.”
Recently, Vitezi Rend has made a comeback, and there are actually two parties in Hungary that claim to be heirs to the group, Foreward.com notes. Gorka belonged to the one called “Historical Vitezi Rend,” which isn’t violent, but still follows the nationalist views of the original group.
“This administration has staff with shockingly anti-Semitic pasts and it is hard to imagine that they have nothing to do with the horrifically weak reactions to anti-Semitic hate crimes that we see coming from this administration,” Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, told Buzzfeed. “That Sebastian Gorka cannot even deny that he has links with a Nazi-affiliated group is symptomatic of the grotesque anti-Semitism that has infected the Trump White House.”
2. Gorka Says He Wears the Medal to ‘Remind Myself Where I Came From’
In an interview with Brietbart Gorka said that he doesn’t wear the medal linked to Vitezi Rend because he’s a Nazi sympathizer. It’s to remind him of his parents, who fled Hungary to the U.K. during the communist regime.
“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again. Why?” Gorka, who has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2012, told Brietbart. “To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today because as far as I’m concerned, groups like the Islamist State, like Al Qaeda — they’re just another kind of totalitarian. They’re not Communists, they’re not Nazis, but they will enslave or kill you if you disagree with them.”
After Gorka’s response was published, Clifton and his editors later updated the post. “Gorka evidently felt compelled today to respond (via Breitbart) indirectly to our post here about his public display of a Vitezi Rend medal at an inaugural ball and on other occasions,” the note reads. “We want to make clear that we respect his devotion to his parents and the commemoration of their experience and suffering. But we in turn are compelled to ask why his father joined a group with a known history of anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazis.”
Foreward.com noted in a previous article in February that Gorka did have ties to nationalist politicians in Hungary and was very active in the anti-government protests in 2006.
3. Gorka Endorses Trump’s Use of ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ & Wrote ‘Defeating Jihad’
Gorka’s views mark a dramatic turn from the views of previous administrations. He endorses Trump’s use of the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” While the Bush and Obama administrations tried to frame the War on Terror as a war against terrorists, not Islam, Gorka doesn’t see it that way. In 2016, he wrote the book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.
“Our enemy is the global jihadi movement, a modern totalitarian ideology rooted in the doctrines and martial history of Islam,” the synopsis for the book reads. “Taking his cue from the formerly top-secret analyses that shaped the U.S. response to the communist threat, Dr. Gorka has produced a compelling profile of the jihadi movement—its mind and motivation—and a plan to defeat it.”
“As the president said, we will ‘obliterate’ groups like ISIS and wipe the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth,” Gorka told the Washington Times in February.
Gorka was also excited to hear Trump use the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism” during the inauguration. “When he used those three words today — radical Islamic terrorism — he put the marker down for the whole national security establishment,” Gorka said on Fox News, notes the Washington Post.
4. Gorka’s Colleagues Question His Credentials as a ‘Counterterrism Expert’
The rest of the counterterrorism community has an overall negative view of Gorka, criticizing his credentials and wondering how he could be considered an expert on Islam. Gorka has been known to not take this criticism lightly. For example, in February, Newsweek obtained a recording of Gorka threatening to sue terrorism expert Michael S. Smith II, a Republican, for criticizing Gorka on Twitter. Gorka never responded to comment on the Newsweek story.
“I was like a deer in the headlights,” Smith told Newsweek. “I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.”
Smith further explained, “Gorka asserted my tweets about him merited examination by the White House legal counsel. In effect, he was threatening to entangle me in a legal battle for voicing my concerns on Twitter that he does not possess expertise sufficient to assist the president of the United States with formulating and guiding national security policies.”
Gorka himself does use Twitter, but mostly retweets members of the Trump Administration.
“It’s always personal, always ad hominem,” he said told the Washington Times. “That tells you all you need to know about the other side’s true weakness. They can’t win on the merits of their case, so they ‘play the man, not the ball.’”
Gorka does have a Ph.D. in political science and studied at the University of London and the Corvinus University of Budapest. Before joining the Trump administration, he was a faculty member at Georgetown University.
“He thinks the government and intelligence agencies don’t know anything about radicalization, but the government knows a lot and thinks he’s nuts,” former CIA analyst Cindy Storer told the Washington Post.
5. Gorka’s Wife Katharine Has Also Been Accused of Islamophobia
In July 1996, Gorka married Katharine Fairfax Cornell, according to a New York Times wedding announcement. Katharine’s father is M. Keen Cornell, president of Cornell Iron Works. She even wrote a book about the company’s history.
Katherine has also written for Brietbart and was an adviser on Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. She’s the president of the think tank Council on Global Security. Despite her work with Cruz, Katharine was a member of the Trump transition team.
In a 2014 piece, she defended the five Republican members of Congress who were criticized for calling for an investigation of possible “Muslim Brotherhood influence operations in the Obama administration.” She suggested that a 2014 New York Times article even indirectly confirmed the conspiracy theories.
“If members of Congress or the Department of Justice decide to dig deeper into this issue, their investigation cannot stop at influence-buying of US think tanks but must look into every aspect of America’s national security apparatus,” Katherine wrote.