(JTA) – The American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on the Trump administration to look into associations between Sebastian Gorka, who serves as a counterterrorism adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, and the far right in Hungary.
The AJC statement Tuesday came after revelations that Gorka said in a 2007 TV interview that a “societal need” was filled by a Hungarian nationalist militia that later was accused of racism and anti-Semitism.
“AJC calls on the administration to look into new revelations about Sebastian Gorka’s past,” the AJC, a centrist group that is a pre-eminent representative of American Jewish views in foreign capitals, said in a statement. “They raise serious concerns about his current role as deputy assistant and advisor on counterterrorism to President Donald J. Trump, and as a member of the administration’s Strategic Initiatives Group.”
Gorka can be seen in the interview, obtained by the Forward, saying that he was not opposed to the establishment of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary militia with strong ties to the nationalist Jobbik party. In 2009, a Hungarian court banned the Guard.
In the interview Gorka, when asked as a leader of the newly formed New Democratic Coalition party if he supports the establishment of the militia, said, “That is so,” explaining that it responds to “a big societal need.” Hungary at the time was facing widespread anti-government protests. Gorka has denied outright support for the Hungarian Guard.
The Guard was barely nascent at the time of the interview, and its embrace of hypernationalism and anti-Semitism – which led to international condemnation and to a ban U.S. entry for members of the guard – would come later. Moreover, Gorka said in the interview that while he saw a need for the Guard, he also regarded the initiative as political exploitation by right wing parties that were rivals to his own.
During the program, a banner declares the support of Gorka’s party for the Guard.
In 2009, the militia, which marched under the colors of the Nazi-era Arrow Cross movement, was banned in Hungary on the grounds that it generated ethnic tension and threatened public order. It soon relaunched itself under a new name.
Gorka was born in England in 1970 to Hungarian parents. He moved to Hungary in 1992, where he appeared on TV as a counterterrorism expert, helped found the NDC and served as an adviser to Viktor Orban, a politician who now heads the conservative Fidesz party. He later moved to the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 2012.
Last month, several Democratic lawmakers wrote letters to Trump voicing concern over reports in the Forward of Gorka’s alleged membership in a Hungarian far-right nationalist group, Historical Vitézi Rend. Gorka denied the association, but said he has worn the regalia of the group as a tribute to his father, who was honoured by the group for his anti-communist activism after World War II.
The AJC statement also referred to Gorka’s associations with Historical Vitézi Rend, and noted that he launched his Hungarian political party, the New Democratic Coalition, with veterans of Jobbik, a party AJC describes as “an outright racist and anti-Semitic group.”