As soon as the White House announced last week that U.S. President Donald Trump was planning to appoint Sebastian Gorka to the National Security Education Board, the anti-“Make America Great Again” (MAGA) chorus pounced on the opportunity to renew its smear campaign against the former West Wing staffer.
The progressive periodical, The Forward, for example, promptly dusted off an old “award-winning investigative report” on Gorka—author, most recently, of The War for America’s Soul—ostensibly exposing a dark past and dubious present.
The left-wing Jewish newspaper gleefully reiterated its previous false accusation that Gorka—a naturalized American, born and raised in Britain, where his parents had fled to escape Communist Hungary—swore a “lifelong allegiance to a Hungarian neo-Nazi group.”
The group in question is Vitézi Rend (Order of Vitéz), a nationalist organization that expressed “pride” in Gorka’s having worn its badge, tunic and ring at Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
While it’s true that Gorka sported these symbols, he did so in honor of his father, Paul Gorka, who was granted the Hungarian order of merit in 1979 for his bravery in resisting the Communist dictatorship that followed the fascists.
The merit was established in 1920 by Miklós Horthy. Horthy, the wartime Hungarian regent accused of not doing enough to prevent the subsequent Nazi deportation of Jews during World War II—and whose own son was kidnapped by Nazi commandos—was eventually replaced by the fascist Arrow-Cross Regime, allied to Adolf Hitler.
In a 2017 interview that I conducted with him for The Algemeiner, Gorka recounted that his father “was nine years old when the war broke out and 15 when it ended and the puppet Nazi regime fell. He was imprisoned at the age of 20 for his anti-Communist activities, and was later given the medal in exile. I wear his medal during official occasions in homage to my father and my Hungarian roots.”
Today, the Hungarian merit is recognized by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry.
That Vitézi Rend was pleased to see Gorka displaying the trappings of the merit for all the world to see gave the Never Trumpers additional ammunition against the president, whose election they refused to accept. Indeed, since Trump’s victory at the ballot box more than three-and-a-half years ago, his rivals have tried to make their ridiculous claims of his anti-Semitism and sympathy to “white supremacists” stick.
One method has been to go after his supporters and, of course, political appointees. Gorka, then, was a perfect target for their poison arrows, particularly since the real root of their antipathy towards him is his unapologetically tough stance on radical Islamism, which he spelled out in his 2016 book, Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War. Oh, and let’s not forget his staunch defense of Israel and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another figure that The Forward and its readership love to hate.
Gorka is neither an anti-Semite nor an “Islamophobe,” as his foes repeatedly assert to discredit him. No, he is a conservative Republican who believes that America’s enemies—external threats, such as Iran, and internal foes like those currently attempting literally and figuratively to topple the country’s heritage and exceptionalism—can and must be overcome.
Israel, as far as he is concerned, is an ally in this fight.
Herein lies the true impetus for his detractors’ mud-slinging: They cannot stomach his right-wing credentials as a former editor and writer at the Breitbart News Network, as a Fox News contributor and as a close associate of former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon, with whom he served at the White House as part of the Strategic Initiatives Group.
Despite resigning from his position as “deputy assistant to the president” after a mere seven months on the job—due to political differences with the newly appointed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the aftermath of whose own short-lived career at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has revealed resentment of the president—Gorka remained true to his MAGA convictions in general and his faith in Trump specifically.
This is evident in his monologues and the guests whom he hosts on his syndicated radio show, America First, for the conservative Salem Media Group. Trump’s appointing him to be part of the 14-member National Security Education Board—one of whose stated missions is to “produce an increased pool of applicants for work in the departments and agencies of the United States government with national-security responsibilities”—is therefore completely fitting.
The Forward, as usual, has got it backward.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”