NEW YORK – A senior foreign policy adviser to US President Donald Trump pushed back Sunday against reports suggesting he has ties to proto- fascist groups in Hungary dating back to his young adulthood.
Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, told The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York that claims he and his fellow White House colleagues Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller harbor antisemitic views are politically motivated, driven by those on the political Left aligned with movements hostile to Israel.
Gorka received a warm welcome at the conference, receiving applause at the beginning and a partial standing ovation at the end of his session with the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Yaakov Katz.
He characterized himself and the Trump administration as staunchly “pro-Israel” and personally condemned antisemitism.
“I have spent my life fighting against totalitarian ideologies, and so has my father,” Gorka said. “For me, jihadis are linked to fascists because they are totalitarians – and that is why I am proud to work for this administration.”
Gorka has been the subject of a series of investigative reports published by The Forward, a Jewish American newspaper, which document his alleged associations with Vitézi Rend, a neo-Nazi group. The paper also uncovered camera footage of Gorka defending the actions of the Hungarian Guard, a militia serving the nation’s far-right Jobbik Party, itself accused of neo-Nazism.
But the newspaper has not uncovered “one sentence that is antisemitic or anti-Israel” he himself has uttered, Gorka charged.
Repeatedly distancing himself from the ideology of Nazism specifically and fascism generally, Gorka told the conference stories of his father helping Jewish neighbors throughout the war period.
He said the Trump administration hopes to stigmatize the flag of Islamic State to a point where it is universally compared “to the swastika of the Nazi Third Reich.” He also took note of the conference date, May 7, the anniversary of the German Nazi army’s surrender to Allied forces.
One critical link in The Forward’s reporting between Gorka and Vitézi Rend appears to be Gorka’s father, who was politically active after the war.
But, in 1944, during Germany’s occupation of Budapest, “he escorted his fellow Jewish schoolmates who were forced to wear the Star of David to school every day and back to stop the local German forces from assaulting them or spitting on them,” Gorka charged in his remarks, citing his father’s memoir.
In recent days, US media have published conflicting reports on Gorka’s future role
in the Trump administration, with some outlets claiming as recently as last week that he would leave the West Wing.
Those reports are “very fake news,” Gorka asserted.
“I’d like to thank everybody who has stood by me in this administration for the past few weeks,” he said, characterizing the White House as a “well-oiled machine.”
Gorka said Tr ump’s commitment to Israel is clear, evidenced by his decision to hand his son-in-law Jared Kushner the Middle East peace portfolio at the outset of his presidency. He touted the president’s upcoming trip to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Rome
as a demonstration of his commitment to religious tolerance.
Compare that to the last administration, Gorka asserted, which “didn’t take faith seriously” and treated religion “as a networking exercise – nothing more.”
The top adviser also sought to distance Trump from his predecessor, Barack Obama, on his approach to projecting force. Gorka offered two examples of Trump’s leadership style in the early days of his presidency: his decision to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons on innocents and his deployment of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb.
“Those two events were not about Afghanistan and not about Syria,” Gorka said. “They were about a return of American leadership and sending a very simple message.”
“The president has been explicit, before January 20 and afterwards, he has absolutely no interest in invading anybody’s countries and occupying them. That is un-American, and this administration will not do it,” Gorka said.
He spoke of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State as all part of one great borderless phenomenon of Islamic extremism.
“They all feed from the same genetic code. What is that genetic code? The jihadi ideology of the brotherhood,” he said. “We know that they share the same goal, and their goal is against what we represent.”
“He understands the threat, and he will obliterate it,” Gorka continued, speaking of extremist Islam. “We will lead and, with our friends, we will destroy our enemies.”