A security adviser to US President Donald Trump accused of having ties with anti-Semitic Hungarian nationalist groups walked out of a panel at a Washington, DC, university on Monday after being questioned by students over his alleged ties with the organizations.
Sebastian Gorka, who prior to joining the Trump administration worked as a terrorism analyst and editor for Breitbart News, said at the question and answer session during a cybersecurity conference at Georgetown University that reports linking him pro-Nazi Vitezi Rend group in Hungary were “fake news,” The Hill reported.
After denying allegations that he is anti-Semitic in his opening statement, Gorka was questioned numerous times by a group of protesters in regards to his alleged connections with Vitézi Rend, leading him to say “I am sorry for you.”
“You are the victims of fake news,” The Hill quoted him as saying.
Gorka then challenged his critics to produce evidence to back their claims he is anti-Semitic.
“Every single person holding a placard challenging my parents and myself, I challenge you to go away…find one sentence I wrote that is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel,” The Forward quoted him as saying.
Gorka, a native of Britain who is the son of Hungarian immigrants, has been reported to be a member of Vitézi Rend, named for a defunct order of merit that had existed as a state entity for 20 years until 1944 under the rule of Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s Nazi-allied leader. Vitézi Rend was disbanded, outlawed and ceased to exist in the 1940s following the World War II defeat of Nazi Germany.
The US State Department lists Vitézi Rend as a Nazi-linked group, which could render members ineligible for visas. Gorka immigrated to the US nine years ago.
Gorka, who has appeared on TV wearing a Vitézi Rend pin, says he inherited his position with the group from his father and never officially joined. However on Monday The Forward newspaper reported that he has used an honorific reserved for members of the group since 1998, several years before his father’s death.
Gorka told the panel the accusations against him were part of a media campaign to play up reports of tensions in the Trump administration.
“Palace intrigue sells papers and is click-bait,” he said, according to The Hill.
After getting up to leave the panel, Gorka said that he wanted other participants on the panel to have an opportunity to answer questions.
Earlier this month, the Forward published a 2007 recording in which Gorka said he was not opposed to the establishment of the Hungarian Guard, a nationalist militia that later was accused of racism and anti-Semitism. In 2009, a Hungarian court banned the Guard.
In March, Democratic Representative Jerrod Nadler and three top Democratic senators voiced concern over reports of Gorka’s alleged membership in the Historical Vitezi Rand and in a letter urged acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, to investigate the circumstances of Gorka’s path to US citizenship, and whether he concealed his alleged membership in the group as part of his naturalization process.
Gorka has denied being a fascist or anti-Semite. In a statement published last month by Tablet, Gorka was quoted as writing, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend.”
Earlier this month, a group of Democratic lawmakers called on Trump to dismiss Gorka over his alleged ties with the far-right groups, saying they make him “unfit to serve in any position of responsibility in the White House.”
JTA contributed to this report.