Sebastian Gorka | Media Matters for America

Sebastian Gorka

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  • Sebastian Gorka responds to criticism by calling his own quotes "fake news 101"

    Gorka: “I was admonishing the journalists of the fake news industrial complex

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    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.

  • Debunking right-wing media's bogus Ukrainian collusion narrative

    Wash. Post report shows why Hannity's defense for Trump Jr. is nonsense

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A report from The Washington Post debunked a prominent right-wing media claim that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign worked with the Ukrainian government during the 2016 election cycle.

    In response to reports that Donald Trump Jr. welcomed potential information from the Russian government that would have been harmful to Clinton, right-wing media have suggested that Clinton, her campaign, and the Democratic Party colluded with Ukraine in a similar manner. Besides Trump propagandist Sean Hannity, prominent right-wing media outlets and figures, such as The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit, The Daily Wire, Fox’s Eric Bolling, and far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, pushed the claim. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart editor, also appeared on news outlets and repeated the claim.

    In a July 11 report, the Post’s Philip Bump wrote that the claim that Clinton’s campaign colluded with Ukraine, which originates from a Politico article from January, relies specifically on “one person who was researching [former Trump campaign chairman Paul] Manafort with help from inside the Ukrainian Embassy and who, at some undetermined point, provided info to the Clinton campaign.” As Bump wrote, the “Ukrainian plot that’s been revealed” is, in reality, “a weak link to the Ukrainians and a weaker link to the Clinton campaign.” By contrast, “U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed his intelligence agencies to hack into and release private information from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.” According to the article, “American intelligence agencies saw signs that people allied with Trump’s campaign may have been aiding the Russians in that effort.” Bump also spoke with a legal expert about the Clinton-Ukraine narrative, who said, “The difference is that there is not clear evidence of the Clinton campaign coordinating with a foreign national or encouraging or accepting their help.” From the article:

    It centers on a woman named Alexandra Chalupa, who worked as a consultant for the Democratic Party throughout the 2016 cycle through her firm, Chalupa & Associates. Her role with the party was outreach to ethnic communities, but, a Ukrainian American herself, Chalupa had been researching Paul Manafort’s work in that country even before he was tapped to serve as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in March of last year. Chalupa, Politico said, “occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and [Hillary] Clinton’s campaign” — though the timing on this sharing isn’t clear.

    [...]

    While the Politico story does detail apparent willingness among embassy staffers to help Chalupa and also more broadly documents ways in which Ukrainian officials appeared to prefer Clinton’s candidacy, what’s missing is evidence of a concerted effort driven by Kiev.

    U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed his intelligence agencies to hack into and release private information from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. That effort included hackers from two different intelligence agencies which spent months inside the DNC network before releasing thousands of pages of documents to the public.

    What’s more, they coordinated a widespread campaign to amplifying unflattering stories about Clinton and promote Trump. Russia also repeatedly probed American election systems, prompting an unusual warning to states from the federal government.

    American intelligence agencies saw signs that people allied with Trump’s campaign may have been aiding the Russians in that effort. That’s why this is all being discussed right now, of course, since Trump Jr.’s emails draw the clearest line between the Russians and the campaign we’ve yet seen. The FBI began a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s meddling a year ago.

    By contrast, Politico’s report details the work of one person who was researching Manafort with help from inside the Ukrainian Embassy and who, at some undetermined point, provided info to the Clinton campaign, though she worked for the DNC as a consultant until shortly before the party conventions. That, coupled with the Manafort ledger revelation, is the full scope of the Ukrainian plot that’s been revealed. A weak link to the Ukrainians and a weaker link to the Clinton campaign.

    [...]

    Lawrence Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, spoke with The Washington Post on Tuesday about how Trump Jr.’s emails might pose a legal risk to him. Over email, he weighed in on the Politico story as well.

    “I think the article raises some troubling questions about Ukraine involvement in our elections,” Noble said. “The difference is that there is not clear evidence of the Clinton campaign coordinating with a foreign national or encouraging or accepting their help.”

  • Daily Beast: FBI fired Trump adviser and frequent Fox News guest Sebastian Gorka for “anti-Muslim diatribes”

    “A senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump adviser, frequent Fox News guest, and former Breitbart editor Sebastian Gorka was fired by the FBI, who was paying him to give lectures on counterterrorism issues, due to “his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.” Gorka, who has come under fire for being a “sworn member” of a “Nazi-allied” Hungarian group, has also defended claims that President Barack Obama was the “founder” of ISIS, blamed Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Pulse nightclub shooting, and blamed Obama for veteran suicides.

    In a June 21 story, The Daily Beast reports the FBI “ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.” Gorka was fired after he “told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course … that all Muslims adhere to sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and American democratic values.” The Daily Beast reported that after these remarks, “a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions”:

    The inflammatory pundit Sebastian Gorka worked for the FBI while he was a paid consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lecturing bureau employees on counterterrorism issues.

    Until the FBI terminated Gorka for his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.

    The Daily Beast has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.

    [...]

    Gorka told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course, an introductory-level class for participants in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, that all Muslims adhere to sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. constitution and American democratic values. Officials familiar with his lecture said Gorka taught law-enforcement officials there is no such thing as mainstream Muslims—only those radicalized and those soon to be radicalized.

    The following month, a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.

  • Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.

  • Qatari crisis shows grave implications of Trump’s Twitter account

    Yes, the media should take statements from the president seriously, be they on Twitter or any other platform

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s staffers have excoriated the media for covering the president’s tweets and for questioning his use of the platform, claiming that "it's social media," not official government policy. However, the Qatari government’s bewildered reaction to Trump’s tweets criticizing the Persian Gulf state over terrorism financing, followed by the president contradicting his secretary of state’s call to ease a recent blockade against Qatar by other Arab nations, demonstrates that journalists should ignore White House staffers’ admonishments and treat Trump's social media comments as presidential statements.

    On June 5, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka made television appearances where they lectured journalists about their coverage of the president’s tweets. When hosts on NBC’s Today and CNN’s New Day asked Trump’s staffers about tweets he had sent earlier that morning, they derided the hosts for their, as Conway put it, “obsession with covering everything [Trump] says on Twitter.” Gorka also repeatedly told his interviewer that the interviewer was “obsessed” with Trump’s tweets and tried arguing that “a hundred characters is not policy. … It’s not policy. It’s social media.”

    Enter the sudden diplomatic crisis between Qatar, which hosts America’s largest military base in the region, and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Several Arab nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off access routes to its territory because of the nation’s supposed support for radical Islamist groups. Trump reacted to the volatile situation by posting a series of tweets taking credit for the move to isolate Qatar -- while also explaining why he uses social media to communicate:

    Trump staffers’ may insist to the media that the president’s tweets aren’t policy and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but the Qatari government apparently feels otherwise. In a June 6 interview with The Daily Beast, Qatar’s ambassador to the U.S., Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, stated that the Trump administration didn’t express any hostility to Qatar until Trump began tweeting:

    Qatar’s brand new ambassador to Washington was already bewildered, along with much of the rest of his country, at dramatic moves by several Arab nations in the past 48 hours to cut diplomatic and trade ties with the tiny Gulf nation. The hate tweets by Donald Trump only made things worse.

    “We were surprised,” said Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, perhaps the understatement of the year from the diplomat who is just a couple of months into his post here. “No one approached us directly and said, ‘Look, we have problems with this and this and this,’” he told The Daily Beast in his first on-the-record interview since the controversy broke.

    [...]

    President Donald Trump hailed the move in tweets as proof his recent visit to the region was a success. “They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” he tweeted.

    But here’s the strange thing. Trump had hailed the Gulf nation in his landmark summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, calling Qatar “a crucial strategic partner,” and he met with Qatari leader Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani—and raised no complaints, the ambassador said.

    “We participated in Riyadh. We had a good meeting with the president and with [Saudi] King Salman—nothing was raised,” he said. The Treasury Department has praised Qatar’s work on terrorist financing, and the gulf nation plays host to a massive U.S. air base. Its special operations forces fight side by side with American special operators on a number of battlefields.

    “It’s unfortunate to see these tweets,” the ambassador said. “We have close coordination with the United States. They know our efforts to combat financial terrorism and terrorism.”

    So much for the president’s tweets not being government policy.

    Trump’s June 9 press conference underscored the importance of media scrutinizing the president's social media posts. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had publicly defended Qatar just an hour before the presser and had called for the Arab countries that had severed ties with the Persian Gulf state to “immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other.” But during a presser with the president of Romania, Trump slammed Qatar, again accusing it of having “been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” and cited Tillerson’s support of his idea that “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding” of terrorism. As it turns out, Trump’s tweets were a clear indication of his thinking at the time and showed that journalists should ignore Conway, Gorka, and anyone else from the administration urging them to discount their importance.

    Just ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which just cited a Trump tweet as an "official statement" of the president.

  • Sebastian Gorka Was The Only Trump Official On Cable News Last Night

    Have Trump's Media Defenders Finally Had Enough?

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Barely any Republican lawmakers or administration officials defended President Donald Trump on TV news shows after The New York Times reported on a memo from former FBI Director James Comey saying that Trump asked him to halt the ongoing probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    According to the Times’ May 16 report, Comey wrote a memo “shortly after” meeting with Trump in February, saying that the president asked Comey to “shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.” According to the Times, Trump said to Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”

    Following the release of the report, barely any Republican lawmakers or officials from Trump’s administration could be found defending the president on cable news. One exception was embattled Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, who appeared on the May 16 edition of Fox News’ Hannity claiming that the “fake news” had now turned into “dishonest news” and the press was engaged in “politics above national security.”

    A few elected Republican officials did appear on cable news, but many of the appearances seemed prescheduled. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was the lone Republican lawmaker bent on defending Trump on cable news, lamenting to MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that Trump “is not cut a break by anybody” and that the media is “dead set on discrediting” him.

    Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich made a prescheduled appearance at a CNN town hall on May 16. When asked about the new report, Kasich used it to explain why he didn’t vote for Trump in the election.

    Republicans were still scarce on morning news shows the next day. No Republican lawmakers or Trump administration officials appeared on the May 17 editions of the broadcast morning shows. As CBS’ Charlie Rose explained, CBS This Morning “reached out to 20 Republicans senators and representatives to appear on this broadcast. We also reported and requested that someone from the White House join us at any point during our two-hour broadcast to respond to the latest news. All declined our invitation.”

    Similarly, no Republican appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. CNN’s New Day hosted moderates Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). And Fox News hosted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, although Pruitt was not asked about the Times report.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts and SnapStream for elected Republican officials or members of Trump’s administration who appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on May 16 from 5-11 p.m. and May 17 from 6-9 a.m.

    Media Matters also used SnapStream to search for elected Republican officials or members of the Trump administration on the May 17 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today.

    Dina Radtke contributed research to this piece.

  • Report: Breitbart Editor-Turned-Trump Official Is A "Sworn Member" Of "Nazi-Allied" Hungarian Group

    Sebastian Gorka Has Denied The Report

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Jewish news publication The Forward reported that Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka is a “formal member” of the Vitézi Rend, a far-right nationalist Hungarian group that, according to the State Department, operated under the direction of Nazi Germany during World War II. Gorka, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump and former national security editor for “alt right” website Breitbart.com, denied that he was a member of the group when contacted by another publication.

    The Forward spoke to two leaders of the Vitézi Rend, Gyula Soltész and Kornél Pintér, who said Gorka is a sworn member of their organization. From the March 16 article:

    Gorka, who pledged his loyalty to the United States when he took American citizenship in 2012, is himself a sworn member of the Vitézi Rend, according to both Gyula Soltész -- a high-ranking member of the Vitézi Rend’s central apparatus -- and Kornél Pintér -- a leader of the Vitézi Rend in Western Hungary who befriended Gorka’s father through their activities in the Vitézi Rend.

    Soltész, who holds a national-level leadership position at the Vitézi Rend, confirmed to the Forward in a phone conversation that Gorka is a full member of the organization.

    “Of course he was sworn in,” Pintér said, in a phone interview. “I met with him in Sopron [a city near Hungary’s border with Austria]. His father introduced him.”

    The Forward explained that the Vitézi Rend “is listed by the State Department as one of many groups in Germany and the countries it occupied as collaborationist ‘criminal organizations’ with the Nazis as determined by the post-war International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.” Soltész also told BuzzFeed that Gorka is a current member of the Vitézi Rend. Gorka denied these ties to Tablet magazine, telling a reporter, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” (Foward’s article described how Gorka has signed testimony submitted to Congress and other documents with a “v.,” which “is an initial used by members of the Vitézi Rend” after they have taken a sworn oath.)

    Tablet added that Gorka’s father was “a dedicated member of the anti-Communist underground, and had risked his life to organize the Hungarian resistance and deliver vital information about the Soviets to western intelligence agencies, including the MI6. He was eventually arrested, badly tortured, spent two years in solitary confinement and some more in forced labor in the coal mines before eventually escaping to England.”

    Back in February, foreign policy blog LobeLog confirmed with an expert that a medal Gorka had worn to an inaugural ball was from the Vitézi Rend. Breitbart.com editor Joel Pollak defended Gorka in a February 14 article, calling claims about his connections to the Vitézi Rend a “smear” and defending the group by calling it “anti-communist.”

    USA Today reported that following Forward’s report, Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said in a statement that “Sebastian Gorka must resign -- and President Trump must make it happen,” and that the National Jewish Democratic Council also urged Trump to fire Gorka. BuzzFeed quoted Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) calling the reports “deeply disturbing” and saying: “It’s shocking that with these revelations he’s not already fired by the president.” Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim Advocates, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Southern Poverty Law Center also told BuzzFeed that Gorka should resign or that Trump should fire him if the reports about his membership are further substantiated.

    A reporter for Talking Points Memo later tweeted a statement from the Anti-Defamation League, which stated "If true, [Gorka] needs to renounce his membership immediately and disavow their exclusionary message of hate. At a time of rising anti-Semitism around the world, it is essential for Mr. Gorka to make clear that he rejects the policies of far-right and nativist organizations such as Vitézi Rend and Jobbik, which have a long history of stoking anti-Semitism and intolerance in Hungary."

    Before he was hired by the Trump administration, Gorka worked for Breitbart.com as a national security editor and was a paid adviser to the Trump campaign. In the past he has used anti-Muslim rhetoric and backed conspiracy theories. For example, after the Washington National Cathedral hosted an event with two Muslim groups in 2014, Gorka wrote an article for Breitbart.com with the headline “Muslim Brotherhood Overruns National Cathedral In DC," arguing that “if a place of worship is used by Muslims for their prayers, that territory subsequently becomes part of Dar al Islam, sacred muslim (sic) land. Forever.” Gorka also defended Trump’s false campaign claim that former President Barack Obama was the “founder of ISIS,” saying he “is absolutely right” if he meant the Obama administration “facilitated the growth of ISIS.”

  • Trump Team Uses Debunked Right-Wing Media Smear To Deflect From Russia Scandals

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump and Sebastian Gorka, Trump's deputy assistant and the former national security editor for Breitbart.com, claimed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “approve[d] the sale of 20 percent of our uranium to Russia” in an attempt to deflect from the administration’s ongoing scandals involving Russia. The claim, which originally came from discredited Clinton Cash author and Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, has been repeated by right-wing media but, repeatedly debunked by other sources. This is not the first time Trump has cited the debunked claim and Gorka has a history of pushing conspiracy theories.