by Eli Clifton
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official who worked to eliminate a grant supporting efforts to de-radicalize neo-Nazis has shared, via Facebook, a Fox News video defending President Donald Trump’s initial unwillingness to explicitly condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The video was titled “Watters Words: Everyone is to blame for Charlottesville.”
The official, Katharine Gorka, is the wife and frequent collaborator of controversial Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who was photographed wearing the coat of arms of a Hungarian Nazi-collaborating group and publicly supported a racist and anti-Semitic militia in a 2007 television interview.
Following the lethal attack in Charlottesville by a protester with ties to neo-Nazi groups, the Trump administration’s slowness to denounce white supremacists and neo-Nazis has come under increased scrutiny.
Sebastian Gorka, who as late as late week was publicly making the argument that media focus on white supremacists was unjustified, has largely kept quiet in the days following the Charlottesville attack as the White House furiously backpedaled from Trump’s tone-deaf response on Saturday, in which the president appeared to equate the violence between neo-Nazis and protesters opposing them.
But the video posted on Katharine Gorka’s Facebook wall, published on Monday evening, doubles down on the false equivalency between neo-Nazi violence and counter-protesters, as well as denouncing Black Lives Matter, and seemingly attempts to blame the Democratic Party for left wing extremist violence. The video, featuring Fox News personality Jesse Watters, (best known for his racist Chinatown segment last year) claimed that “left wing fringe groups descended upon the scene looking for trouble.”
Downplaying connections between neo-Nazi groups and James Alex Fields, Jr., the driver of the car that rammed into counter protesters, Watters opined, “media reports suggest he is a loner and white supremacist sympathizer.”
Watters went on to defend Trump’s initial comments condemning all violence in Charlottesville, comments which members of Trump’s own party denounced as insufficiently rejecting white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence.
Watters then made a bizarre claim about the Democratic Party’s ties to left-wing extremists, saying, “Black Lives Matter and Antifa have more connections to the Democratic Party than white supremacists have to the Republican Party.”
Watters concluded his remarks:
What we saw in Charlottesville were fringe fanatics who do not represent this country. America is not a racist nation. It’s time we stop acting like it is.
This morning, The Huffington Post’s Jessica Schulberg published an article detailing how DHS revoked a grant to Life After Hate, a group that works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis. Schulberg wrote:
The Department of Homeland Security had awarded the group $400,000 as part of its Countering Violent Extremism program in January, just days before former President Barack Obama left office. It was the only group selected for a grant that focused exclusively on fighting white supremacy. But the grant money was not immediately disbursed.
Trump aides, including Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric, were already working toward eliminating Life After Hate’s grant and to direct all funding toward fighting what the president has described as “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Neither Katharine Gorka’s effort to cut DHS funding for programs targeting right wing extremists, nor her husband’s repeated denial of the danger posed by white supremacist and neo-Nazi terrorism, is supported by evidence compiled by the FBI and Katharine Gorka’s employer, DHS.
In May, the FBI and DHS highlighted that white supremacist groups were responsible for more domestic attacks than any other category of domestic extremist group from 2000 to 2016, according to a memo obtained by ForeignPolicy.com
The memo predicted, “We assess lone actors and small cells within the white supremacist extremist (WSE) movement likely will continue to pose a threat of violence over the next year.”
Katharine Gorka did not respond to requests for comment regarding her posting of the Jesse Watters video.