NEW YORK (JTA) — Sebastian Gorka, the White House adviser accused of membership in a far-right Hungarian group, appeared before a largely Jewish audience on Sunday, defending his pro-Israel bona fides and denying claims he was anti-Semitic.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City on Sunday, Gorka rebuffed attacks against him but did not deny being a member of Historical Vitezi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group to which he has allegedly sworn allegiance. He also did not deny outright that he will soon be leaving his position as a counter-terrorism adviser to President Donald Trump.
“I have spent my life fighting against totalitarian ideologies,” Gorka said in an interview with Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s editor in chief. “Nobody… has found one sentence that I have said in the past 46 years that is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.”
An investigation by the Forward has reported that Gorka, who is Hungarian, is a member of Historical Vitezi Rend, a namesake of a defunct order of merit that existed under Hungary’s Nazi-allied government. The original group ceased to exist in the 1940s following Nazi Germany’s defeat. Gorka has worn the organization’s medal to public events, which he claims to do in honor of his father’s anti-Nazi and anti-communist activity.
On Sunday, Gorka did not deny belonging to the movement. But he cast doubt on the idea that Historical Vitezi Rend is a pro-Nazi group, saying that members had been recognized for helping Jews during the Holocaust.
Gorka also suggested that recent reports that he will be leaving the White House for another government position are “fake news.” But he did not deny the reports outright.
“As the president says, there is fake news and there is very fake news,” he said, responding to a question about the reports. “The White House works like a well-oiled machine… I will be there for as long as the president has use for me.”
Gorka said leaders of the White House’s so-called “nationalist” wing, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, are pro-Israel. He called Israel the United States’ closest ally. He said the leaders of attacks on the administration are proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, as well as supporters of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Because we are pro-Israel, we must be attacked, whether it’s the president, whether it’s Steve Bannon, whether it is Steve Miller or myself, we are friends of Israel,” he said. The US alliance with Israel, he added, “is our closest relationship.”
Gorka also praised Trump for his missile strike last month on Syria, and said “nobody will use weapons of mass destruction against unarmed women and children.”
But he added that Trump “has absolutely zero interest in invading other people’s countries and occupying them. That is un-American.”