by Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe
Since the publication of the report by the Forward today that Trump counter-terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka is a sworn member of Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, a growing number of human rights and Jewish groups have been calling for his removal from the White House.
J Street called for Gorka’s resignation or dismissal this afternoon, saying:
This is just the latest alarming report of Sebastian Gorka’s outrageous close ties to anti-Semitic far-right extremists. Such ties should be unacceptable for a member of the US government – let alone an adviser to the President on national security. Gorka should resign immediately. If he does not, the President should dismiss him.
Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President Rob Berschinski called for an investigation into Gorka’s ties to Vitezi Rend. He said:
Antisemitism has no place in America, and certainly no place in the White House. And yet this White House continues, time and again, to take steps that fundamentally call this principle into question. Sebastian Gorka should be placed on immediate suspension while the White House investigates the allegations raised today.
If the allegations prove accurate, Gorka needs to be removed from his position. A man who has sworn an oath to a group glorifying Nazi-era antisemitism has no business serving alongside those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) urged Trump to fire Gorka, saying:
As the Forward reported this morning, under U.S. State Department rules, members of the Vitézi Rend “are presumed to be inadmissible” to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act. According to immigration law, Gorka was all but obligated to reveal his membership. Vitézi Rend members swear allegiance to Hungary and many of its members embrace the anti-Semitism and racism of its founder. Gorka also reportedly wrote articles for a Hungarian paper known for its anti-Semitism.
Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the United States needs to implement, “extreme vetting,” in order to determine if we should allow certain immigrants into our country. And yet, it seems like he failed to vet one of his most trusted advisers. It is outrageous for someone who has sworn loyalty to another country, is a member of a racist and anti-Semitic group, and very possibly lied in his immigration interview, to serve in the White House. We call upon President Trump to fire Gorka immediately.
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, called Gorka’s ties to Hungary’s far right “extensive and troubling,” according to a report in USA Today.
“The only reason he’s anywhere near the White House is Steve Bannon, his old boss at Breitbart, who has his own troubling associations with anti-Semitism,” he said. “It’s time for President Trump to take on anti-Semitism within the ranks of his administration and clean house.”
And those condemnations of Gorka come in the wake of the Anti-Defamation League’s call late last month for Gorka to “disavow the message and outlook” of far-right, anti-Semitic parties with which he was associated in Hungary while he was politically active there from 2002 to 2007. The Anne Frank Center today released a statement that concluded, “Gorka must resign.”
After declining to respond to journalists seeking comment on his ties to Vitezi Rend, which the State Department lists as a Nazi collaborating organization, Gorka gave an interview to Liel Leibovitz at the Tablet Magazine website. Gorka flatly denied that he was a member of Vitezi Rend, saying:
I have never been a member of the Vitezi 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.
Leibovitz approved of Gorka’s defense, saying, “It’s a perfectly plausible explanation, and you’d have to be of a very specific mindset to still pursue allegations of Nazi affiliation.”
Left unquestioned by Leibovitz is the fact that The Forward had two named sources, both senior members of Vitezi Rend, who claimed that Gorka is a sworn member of the group. One of the sources, Kornel Pinter, asserted that Gorka was indeed a sworn member of the order in a Hungarian publication early last month after his White House appointment was confirmed.
Leibovitz also quoted an unidentified source as insisting that Gorka did not respond to previous inquiries by the Forward and other publications about his Hungarian associations because “the allegations were so blatantly false and so aggressively poorly-sourced, that no responsible journalist would ever publish them.” But that explanation ignores the fact that Gorka felt compelled to respond via a Breitbart-produced video when reports about those associations first surfaced in LobeLog last month. LobeLog subsequently posted an essay by Yale historian Eva Balogh on the history of Vitezi Rand and the Gorkas’ likely relationship with the group based on published sources.
The latest Forward report and Gorka denials come amid growing concern among Jewish and human rights groups more generally about the ideological tendencies of key individuals in the White House, particularly those of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s top strategic adviser and former Breitbart CEO. Politico reported this week that Bannon has expressed admiration for French philosopher and editor Charles Maurras, a highly influential ultra-nationalist and notorious anti-Semite of the first half of the 20th century who was imprisoned for collaboration with the Nazis after World War II.
Photo: Sebastian Gorka’s Facebook profile.