For the second time in the past month, the Forward has chosen to sully the reputation of Dr. Sebastian Gorka—a key member of White House staff—eschewing its notional role as a source of journalism and weaponizing its platform in favor of an innuendo-laden assault upon an individual with whom it disagrees politically. The Forward deploys breathtaking bigotry and stereotyping toward nakedly political purposes: Gorka, it seems, is guilty not only as a collaborationist with the Trump regime—the Forward published a puff piece about “the Jewish couple leading the Trump resistance” the day before it first slandered Gorka—but of the presumptive hate crimes of being both Hungarian and politically conservative.
The real agenda, however, is clear: Seb Gorka has written forcefully about the need to defeat the jihadi threat to Western civilization. He has dedicated his career to understanding the nature of the threat, diagnosing the weaknesses in past Western responses—criticizing the Bush and Obama approaches with equal fervor—and warning Western nations about the virulent ideology sweeping through the Islamic world. Unsurprisingly, Gorka and the Forward find themselves on opposite sides of the debate about Syrian refugees. Gorka sees the European decision to embrace them as a potentially fatal error whose debilitating consequences are already threatening freedom and liberal values across the EU – not to mention the physical safety of Jews, many of whom have been emigrating to Israel in fear for their lives. The Forward, on the other hand, publishes articles advising America’s Jews: “To really love thy neighbor, invite a Syrian refugee into your home.”
Seb Gorka’s current position in the White House is directly related to President Trump’s own understanding of the nature of the jihadi threat to America. Because he is in a position of influence, and because his views run directly counter to its own agenda, the Forward has engaged in the basest form of bigotry and slander to eliminate the “threat” he represents. It has now published two articles making a hysterical case that boils down to: Gorka is an anti-Semite because he works for Trump, he is Hungarian, and he’s proud of both. One does not have to agree with Gorka to be appalled at the cynicism of a disingenuous campaign libeling a political target as an anti-Semite despite a total lack of evidence.
Having dedicated two lengthy articles smearing as a Nazi this devout Catholic, this father of young children, who has committed his life to the struggle to preserve Western civilization and liberal values, and this scholar who has written in the most forceful terms of the evils of the Nazi regime, the Forward helpfully notes that “Gorka, who is 46, could not have been part of any World War II killings.” In point of fact, Seb Gorka’s father Pál (Paul) was all of nine years old when the war broke out. And as the Forward also acknowledges, Seb wears the Vitézi Rend (Order of Vitéz) medal awarded to his father in 1979, in recognition of the sacrifices his father made fighting Hungary’s communist regime.
Paul Gorka, in his own book (if the Forward’s “investigative” team read it, they certainly hid the information), recounted several steps that he himself as an adolescent and his family had taken to help protect Jewish friends during the war—and the gratitude that a postwar Jewish relief organization bestowed upon his family for it. But Paul’s fight for freedom began in earnest after the war: As a college student, he joined the struggle against the Soviet occupation then settling into Hungary. The treachery of Kim Philby, the notorious British double agent, soon landed Paul in a communist prison. After two years of solitary confinement, he spent several years alternating between forced manual labor and stints in the torture chamber, a thin wire binding his hands behind his back, cutting and scarring his wrists, as he dangled from the ceiling of his dim, dank, foul-smelling cell. Still, his love of freedom persisted. During Hungary’s brief respite in 1956, Paul Gorka escaped to London, married the daughter of a fellow prisoner, and started a family.
Seb Gorka was raised immersed in his parents’ passion for freedom and justice—and acutely aware of the price that his father had paid to secure them for his children. When the chance to help Hungary achieve freedom and prosperity arose in the early 1990s, Seb left the safety of London to work for the Ministry of Defense of Hungary’s first free government. He joined the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), the old-school conservative party of Prime Minster József Antall, Jr.
Although the Forward cites this move as a strike against Gorka (after all, conservative Hungarians must all be anti-Semites), Gorka chose his political affiliation consciously. The Antall family history paralleled that of the Gorkas. The Prime Minister’s father, József Antall, Sr., was an active force in Hungarian politics from the 1930s until the communists completed their takeover of the country in 1948. Given the opportunity to lead Hungary’s refugee programs during and after the war, he risked not only his position but his own life and his family’s by saving thousands of Jews destined for Nazi ovens—until the Gestapo arrested him. On December 13, 1989, Yad Vashem recognized József Antall, Sr. as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Post-Communist Hungary and Poland bestowed similar honors.
But the Forward, in listing Sebastian Gorka’s political associates in Hungary omits the most important – Antall— perhaps because two sons of anti-Nazis working together would destroy their narrative. Instead, the Forward labels Gorka’s political affiliation “right wing” and “nationalist” – easy scare words for most Jews.
For those not yet frightened, the Forward then labels the Order of Vitéz a “Nazi-Allied” group—omitting from its “reporting” that Yad Vashem and other Jewish organizations have honored both Antall’s family and members of the Order of Vitez for helping and saving Jews from Nazis. The Forward’s “investigation” into the Order of Vitéz similarly failed to note that it had Jewish members—including a friend of the Gorka family whose valuables the Gorkas hid from the Nazis. Those valuables included a medal of the Order of Vitéz just like Paul Gorka’s medal that the Forward has chosen to vilify his son Sebastian for wearing.
Finally, the Forward neglected to mention that whatever some earlier associations of the Order may have been, by the time that Paul Gorka earned his medal in 1979, the Order of Vitéz had long been a badge of anti-communist resistance. Such information might have been useful to readers trying to understand why a key member of the new President’s team would wear a badge of a Central European chivalric order—but it would have undermined the Forward’s goal of slandering a political appointee with whose policies it disagrees.
Sloppy reporting can hardly excuse these omissions. The facts are readily available. The Forward could not find a single shred of evidence suggesting that Sebastian Gorka has ever done or said anything even remotely anti-Semitic. In suggesting guilt by association, the Forward ignored the work of Hungarian-American Jewish journalist David Reaboi who, in response to the first round of smears, revealed that Seb Gorka had done more than merely align himself with another scion of anti-Nazi Hungarians; he joined forces with Antall to fight the anti-Semitism of the Hungarian nationalist right.
These facts alone exonerate Gorka and condemn the Forward. But it is not merely that the Forward withheld facts about Gorka and his anti-anti-Semitic colleagues and activities. The Forward also withheld crucial facts about its own ideological agenda, and the associations and activities of its reporters and its sources. Had it been more forthcoming, the wholly repulsive nature of its character assassination would have been clear. To begin, while slandering Seb Gorka, the Forward also published articles extolling the virtues of former Nation of Islam spokesman Keith Ellison, the anti-Trump resistance, and Syrian refugees—indicative of a progressive, far left ideology, and in fact exceedingly tolerant of actual anti-Semitism.
Next, consider its sources: the author of both Forward attack pieces is Lili Bayer, a Budapest-based freelance journalist whose writing demonstrates a passion for helping Syrian refugees flood into Europe. Bayer, in turn, cites authoritatively to “the news website LobeLog,” which first raised questions about Gorka and his Order of Vitéz medal. The author of that LobeLog article is Eli Clifton—for years a featured member of propaganda and apologist sites like islamforreporters.com, and contributor to the notoriously anti-Semitic Electronic Intifada. According to NGO Monitor, Electronic Intifada “is an online platform that publishes viciously anti-Israel and antisemitic articles…Founder Ali Abunimah has called Zionism ‘one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today’ and claims ‘Supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.’” As a former member of the highly partisan, left-wing Center for American Progress, Clifton openly expressed his personal “discomfort” when CAP extended an invitation to Israel’s prime minister. In fact, Clifton was repudiated by the Obama White House for his extreme anti-Israel and overtly anti-Semitic rhetoric which has been condemned as “infected with Jew-hatred” by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. Clifton’s sudden concern that there may be anti-Semitism lurking in proximity to the President begs ridicule – and the Forward’s reliance on Clifton beggars belief.
Finally, the Forward’s primary source of expertise concerning immigration law—which it used to question the legality of the London-born Gorka’s U.S. citizenship—is Bruce Einhorn. Forward refers to Einhorn as a retired immigration judge. But far more relevant, and of course undisclosed, is Einhorn’s current crusade: “raising as much money as possible” for a non-profit he calls The Asylum Project. Einhorn’s various activities and affiliations – he runs multiple pro-
Syrian-refugee organizations and has called Angela Merkel’s refugee policies an act of tikkun olam – align with the rest of the “sources.” For good measure, Einhorn recently enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame helping Samantha Bee tar Trump supporters as anti-Semites. And his entire riff on Gorka—which runs through a sizable portion of the Forward’s second attack piece—is pure speculation, utterly untethered to any actual facts about Gorka. The Forward invokes Einhorn to provide a patina of legal expertise in a discussion that he begins with a hypothetical, then takes through several further points he concedes are unlikely, to arrive at a conclusion he deems improbable. Nowhere do they reveal his role in working to flood Syrian refugees into the U.S. or his anti-Trump activism.
So there it in a nutshell – Seb Gorka’s accusers: An aggressively anti-Trump, pro-Syrian-refugee publication unperturbed by either the Nation of Islam or the jihadi threat, collaborating with a reporter that shares its commitment to flooding the west with refugees from an anti-Semitic culture, citing the work of a discredited anti-Semite affiliated with a website promoting intifada, and a pro-Syrian-refugee activist-lawyer willing to engage in rank speculation.
The Forward’s entire fiction connecting Gorka to anti-Semitism is predicated entirely on allegedly questionable associations rather than on his own behavior. Perhaps readers would do better to consider the Forward’s own associations, and the words and deeds of the accusers, in assessing the credibility of its slanders. We find it impossible to excuse the Forward’s omissions of both exonerating facts about Gorka and damning facts about its reporting as anything other than intentional and reprehensible.
All in all, it seems clear that the Forward is consciously, methodically, and mendaciously manufacturing an entirely baseless campaign of character assassination against a key Trump White House figure. It speaks volumes about the Forward’s lack of journalistic – and Jewish – ethics. In a backhanded way though, it also manages to vindicate Sebastian Gorka. Despite being targeted by ideological and driven investigative reporters, Gorka has been vetted under a microscope vis-à-vis anti-Semitism and he has passed. Even those absolutely committed to slandering Gorka have found nothing and have been forced to propagate innuendo and outright fiction instead.
The Forward is disgracing itself and disserving American Jewry. Media outlets and politicians repeating the Forward’s slanders owe Seb Gorka and his family an apology. And – whether one agrees or disagrees with his policy conclusions – Gorka is in fact dedicating his life to protecting us as best he knows how; the American Jewish community owes him a humble and profound debt of gratitude.