Trump Adviser Gorka Walks Off Stage at a Discussion of Fake News
(Bloomberg) -- Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, under fire for his alleged association with a Hungarian nationalist group and his views on Islam, walked off the stage during a conference in Washington after facing questions from students and protesters he said distracted from other participants.
Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, was on a panel at Georgetown University on Monday titled “News, Alternative Facts and Propaganda: The Role of Cyber in Influence Operations.” Other panelists included Finnish and Estonian government officials.
As Gorka took the stage, a group of students at the back of the lecture hall held up homemade signs, including a young man wearing a yarmulke whose poster read: “Gorka’s Gotta Go” next to a crossed-out swastika symbol. After intense questioning, Gorka said he was leaving the stage “to allow my colleagues to actually get questions about the issues on the table.”
Gorka, who previously served as national security editor for the conservative Breitbart News, has been an outspoken advocate of Trump’s policies on issues from fighting terrorism to U.S. relations with the Muslim world. During his Georgetown presentation, Gorka dismissed accusations that he’s anti-Semitic and called Trump’s White House one of the “most pro-Israeli administrations in U.S. history.”
“Every single person holding a placard to protest my parents and myself, I challenge you now go away and look at everything I have said or written in the last 46 years of my life and find one sentence that is anti-Semitic or that is anti-Israeli, because you won’t find one,” Gorka said.
Last month, Democratic Senators Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal asked the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to investigate whether Gorka falsified his U.S. naturalization application by failing to disclose his membership in a far-right Christian Hungarian organization known as the Vitezi Rend, which had an association with the Nazi party in the mid-1940s.
During the question-and-answer period, several students grilled Gorka on a range of topics, from anti-Muslim rhetoric to Breitbart. Its former chairman Stephen Bannon is now a top strategist for Trump.
Addressing the students, Gorka said, “You are the victims of fake news” and he called his experience a “superb case study of fake news.”
One student asked Gorka if he was a member of Vitezi Rend. Gorka chronicled his father’s life, saying he was awarded a medal for his resistance to fascist and communist dictators by an anti-communist group created in the West that shared its name with an older organization known as the Order of Vitezi. Gorka pointed to his statement last month to Tablet, a Jewish magazine, in which he denied being a member of the group.
“I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitezi Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism,” he told the magazine following a report from the publication Forward that leaders of the group claimed Gorka was a formal member.
Gorka said many “palace intrigue” stories written about the White House now help sell newspapers but often present events that are “totally contrary to what happened inside the building.”
On classic investigative journalism, Gorka said: “Those days are behind us.”
After answering a series of questions, Gorka gathered his things and abruptly walked from the stage and exited through a side door. The panel continued.