In Hungary, Sebastian Gorka Fought and Tried to Undermine the Anti-Semitism of the Far-Right

Last week, The Forward published a highly misleading article about Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka, incorrectly insinuating he has had “ties” with anti-Semites in Hungary. This narrative is a complete perversion of his involvement in Hungarian politics, which was an example of the opposite: Gorka has a decades-long record as an opponent of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and anti-American sentiment in Hungary and fought to undermine elements on the political right—even going as far as helping launch a political party to push conservative voters away from anti-Semitic parties.

Significantly, Budapest-based Forward writer Lili Bayer neither provides a single anti-Jewish quote from Gorka himself, nor cites anyone who claims Gorka holds any hateful views. Instead, Bayer spends most of her article darkly pushing inflammatory quotes through attempts at guilt-by-association—even as Gorka has denied any association with the people The Forward is trying desperately to tie him to.

Indeed, writing at The Hill, European Union commissioner Tibor Navracsics—who has known Gorka for decades—defended him as “a man who has spent his life battling fascists and anti-Semites of all sorts.” Monday also saw prominent Washington voices lining up to support Gorka’s character against the smears, including Democrat Josh Block of the Israel Project, and Matt Brodsky, formerly of the Jewish Policy Center.

Despite its centuries of proud history and culture, Hungary is still a small country in Eastern Europe, half a world away from Washington, D.C. For more than half a century, it was held captive behind a brutal Iron Curtain. Of course, Americans have every reason not to be aware of the political scene in Budapest, its capital city—and The Forward is shamefully confident that its readers are unaware of the currents of Hungarian politics. Hopefully, this article will provide the needed context.

In 2006, Gorka worked as press coordinator and advisor for a wide-ranging anti-Socialist protest coalition.

In 2006, former Communist Youth leader and Socialist Prime Minister of Hungary Ferenc Gyurcsany gave what was supposed to be a confidential, closed-door speech to members of his party. A few months later, a recording of the prime minister's remarks were leaked to Hungarian Radio. He admitted that the Socialist Party had knowingly lied to Hungarians to come to power, and that the party had no idea what it was doing. Following the release of the recording, a wave of anti-Socialist, pro-democracy demonstrations swept the country, which lasted for months.

During that time, Gorka was in Budapest, working as a press advisor for the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság), a protest coalition which contained a range of voices on the Hungarian right. Gorka’s allies in the coalition were pro-western, liberty-minded political figures who wanted to break off and marginalize the anti-democratic and anti-Semitic excesses of the then-ascendant Jobbik party. He had no dealings with extreme or xenophobic elements of the protest movement. It is unsurprising, though cynical, that the same media which studiously avoids giving attention to the more radical elements of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and Womens’ March movements attempts to tie Gorka to unsavory characters he’s never met.