Trump's Islamophobic foreign-policy adviser had a history of far-right dalliances in Europe after the fall of Communism.
Sebastian Gorka had already raised eyebrows as President Trump’s deputy assistant and one of his chief advisers on foreign policy due mainly to his long history of associations with fringe anti-Muslim groups, many of whom indulge in Islamophobic conspiracy theories. Numerous critics have argued that Gorka’s background disqualifies him from a White House post.
The scrutiny became intense in recent weeks due to revelations in the Jewish magazine Forward that Gorka and his family had longstanding ties to a Hungarian nationalist society, Vitézi Rend, that was allied with Nazi forces during World War II, and had a history of anti-Semitic activity. The questions raised the possibility that Gorka could face an investigation over his immigration papers due to the revelations.
However, it seems that Gorka’s past includes other issues that raise questions about his role as a presidential adviser. According to Hungarian publications, Gorka failed to pass Hungary’s national-security test in 2002 when he applied for a seat on a commission investigating the activities of the sitting prime minister.
Gorka, who was born in London to Hungarian parents and lived in Hungary from 1992 to 2008, worked in the Hungarian Ministry of Defense during the 1990s tenure of József Antall, the nation’s first post-Communist prime minister. He became active again in 2002 while attempting to join a parliamentary committee investigating the postwar activities of the new prime minister, Petr Medgyessy. Medgyessy had been an undercover officer in the Secret Police, the organization that had maintained the previous dictatorship and played a central role in crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
According to the Hungarian news site Magyarnarancs, Gorka was denied a spot on the committee after failing the national security test. According to the article, Gorka was member of the British army for three years and had excellent contacts with the British intelligence services, as well as with U.S. intelligence services; these connections may have been responsible for his failure to pass the test.
Gorka nonetheless played a prominent role in the Medgyessy inquiry, telling a British newspaper at the time: "Medgyessy makes these Alice-in-Wonderland claims that he was the only deep cover secret policeman who never spied on people, who rarely wrote reports and then only about the economy of Communist Hungary. It is patently clear that his account to us cannot be equated with reality, given the testimony of senior former secret police officers and the declassified documents from that time."
Gorka’s associations with Hungarian far-right elements remain murky. First, the Forward reported that Gorka had associated with anti-Semitic leaders in Hungary – especially during the period following his involvement with the Medgyessy investigation. Gorka’s involvement with the far right, the report said, “includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of 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.”
A follow-up story reported that Gorka had sworn a lifetime loyalty oath to the Hungarian pro-Nazi group Vitézi Rend.
Gorka initially issued a generic response: “I’ve been a committed opponent of anti-Semitism, racism and totalitarianism all my life. Any suggestion otherwise is false and outrageous,” Gorka said in a statement sent from the White House.
Later that week, he issued another statement: “I have never been a member of the Vitézi Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitézi Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism,” Gorka told Tablet Magazine.
In the meantime, James Lobe has been steadily reporting on Gorka’s background, including his recent revelation that Gorka’s mother at one time worked as translator for notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.
Additionally, the Hungarian Free Press reported that Gorka attended a far-right convention led by Jobbik in 2007.
Gorka himself has dismissed all the allegations as partisan attacks on the Trump administration. In a Breitbart News interview, he said: “Of course, the attacks we’ve seen in the last month are outrageous and dishonest, but I don’t really take it personally. These attacks aren’t about me, really; they’re about making sure that the American people don’t get the policies they resoundingly voted for.”
He added: “We’ve come to a place, unfortunately, where elements of the media are waging a scorched earth campaign against the president by trying to throw everything they have at anyone associated with his administration. … And in the end, as the son of parents who survived the Nazi takeover of Hungary and then the nightmare of Communism, these attacks have no power over me.”