Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, immediately ran to Fox News to downplay comments he made criticizing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Gorka blamed the media for misinterpreting his comments.
In an interview with BBC radio, Gorka called it “nonsensical” for Tillerson to discuss military action against North Korea, saying that it was the job of Secretary of Defense James Mattis to discuss military options. Later that day, Gorka appeared on Fox News and addressed the controversy, denying he uttered those words.
Buzzfeed transcribed Gorka’s original comments to BBC Radio:
During the radio interview, Gorka also pushed back on more levelheaded comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Americans should “sleep well at night” and “have no concerns” over the the threat of attacks from North Korea. Tillerson isn't in charge of defense strategy, he said.
“The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical,” Gorka told the BBC.
“It is the job of Secretary Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, to talk about the military options. And he has done so unequivocally,” said Gorka.
When confronted with these comments hours later on Fox News, Gorka denied having ever described Tillerson’s comments as “nonsensical,” claiming he “never said that” and attacked the media for reporting his direct quote, calling it “fake news 101.” He pivoted again in the interview and claimed that he “was admonishing journalists” for “forcing our chief diplomat into a position” to make a “statement regarding military options.” From the August 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto (emphasis added):
ELIZABETH CLAMAN (GUEST HOST): I would be remiss if we didn’t bring up what just happened at the secretary of state’s spokesperson’s meeting before the press. This morning, and let me just back up here for our viewers who might not know, I believe this morning you gave an interview to BBC Radio during which you said that “it was nonsensical for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss military matters” and that he was “out of line.” Let’s hear what –
SEBASTIAN GORKA: Never said that.
CLAMAN: You’ve never said –
GORKA: I never said that secretary of state was -- that’s fake news 101.
CLAMAN: Well there’s audio of you saying the word “nonsensical.”
GORKA: I have the audio. I have the audio as well, thank you.
CLAMAN: So you’re denying that you said it’s inappropriate, perhaps, for Rex Tillerson to have told the American people to calm down?
GORKA: Absolutely, absolutely. No, I never said that, I said for reporters to force our chief diplomat, the amazing Rex Tillerson to give details of military options is nonsensical. He is the secretary of state, that means you don’t understand what the words secretaries of state means. It is fake news, classic example.
CLAMAN: Well, diplomacy does sometimes work hand in hand with military actions.
GORKA: Absolutely, absolutely but there’s a secretary of defense and there’s a secretary of state.
CLAMAN: It’s now big enough that Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for Rex Tillerson was asked about it, she even said as she was walking to the press event there that she was told about it.
GORKA: I was admonishing the journalists of the fake news industrial complex who are forcing our chief diplomat into a position where they are demanding he makes the military case for action when that is not the mandate of the secretary of state. That's why we have a Department of Defense. If a journalist doesn't know the difference between the secretary of state and the Department of Defense they should hand in their credentials, it's just absurd lack of understanding. He is our most senior diplomat and he has done an amazing job to get 15 nations of the U.N. Security Council to tell North Korea enough is enough. But when reporters try to force him to make statements regarding military options, they have no idea what they're talking about and if they think that's a story, they're not journalists.