UPDATE (3/19/17)- After Donald Trump was inaugurated as president in January 2017, he brought Sebastian Gorka into his White House to serve as a national security advisor. On March 16, the Jewish news website Forward exposed Gorka as a longtime member of Vitézi Rend, a Nazi allied Hungarian organization which espouses doctrines of racial supremacy and is on the U.S. State Department’s list of banned organizations. Mr. Gorka may be guilty of an immigration violation if he lied about his membership in Vitézi Rend during the process of immigrating from Hungary to the United States.
Denver, CO – Transaction history from the City of Denver’s online checkbook shows that the Safety Administration paid $3,731.91 to Threat Knowledge Group, a think tank operating under the chairmanship of a man named Sebastian Gorka with his wife Katharine as president.
With further investigation we discovered this payment was specifically for a “counter-terrorism seminar” given by Gorka, booked by the Denver Police Training Academy. Denver’s Department of Safety confirmed via email that officers were paid to attend this event.
Sebastian Gorka is a self-described “counterinsurgency expert” and is a “national security contributor” at Breitbart News, a right-wing news and opinion site closely aligned with the Donald Trump campaign. He is a Military Affairs Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative organization which has promoted Israeli-friendly military campaigns since the George W. Bush administration. He is also involved with the American Enterprise Institute, a free market corporate think tank funded and staffed by operatives from the financial, weapons, and fossil fuel industries.
Gorka is a participant in Groundswell, a controversial right-wing coalition that tries to exert political influence while avoiding the spotlight. Founded in 2012 by various conservative activists and journalists with a shared mission to “destroy the progressive movement,” Groundswell attempts to operate in the shadows, using behind-the-scenes congressional connections as well as coordinated social media messaging in pursuit of conservative policy goals.
While Groundswell has sworn its participants to secrecy, operating through private Google docs and invite-only conference calls, both the contents of a Groundswell Google doc and a recording of one of their calls have been leaked to the public. Sebastian Gorka’s voice can be clearly heard on the leaked recording.
Gorka is treated by many influential right-wing leaders as a trusted expert on military strategy and terrorism, a reputation he repeatedly cashes in on, through his editorial position at Breitbart, his seminars to law enforcement, and providing advice to Donald Trump.
As reported by Buzzfeed, a filing from October 2015 shows an $8,000 payment made by the Trump campaign to Sebastian L. Gorka for “policy consulting”. Other conservative outlets such as RedState criticized Gorka and Breitbart for this payment. Last month in a Breitbart article, he referred to Donald Trump’s proposed foreign policy as “a breath of fresh air.”
A living throwback to the George W. Bush presidency, Sebastian Gorka presents an Islamophobic view of Muslim populations reminiscent of attitudes expressed by advocates of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.
Despite presenting himself as an expert on Muslim culture, Gorka has referred to the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims as “Coke versus Pepsi.” In a talk given at the Institute of World Politics in March of this year, he said “we need to take political correctness out of the threat assessment.”
Gorka’s unapologetic Islamophobia is on full display in a recent appearance on Fox News, in which he defends profiling Muslims as terrorists, while also claiming that doing so is not discriminatory:
Gorka’s twitter account features Fox News and Breitbart articles about terrorism, statements in support of Donald Trump, and many conservative memes, some of which appear to be openly bigoted towards transgender people:
Hilarious— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) May 18, 2016
AND sad pic.twitter.com/Rxf34v5iSM
Another example of trashing transgender people from @SebGorka’s Twitter timeline:
In February of this year, Sebastian Gorka was detained and charged at Reagan National airport after attempting to board a flight while carrying a handgun.
The booking of Sebastian Gorka’s seminar by the Denver Police Department certainly raises questions about the appropriateness of such a controversial right-wing speaker instructing a police force with an extensive history of unjustified killings, excessive force, racism, and crackdowns on protesters.
Documents from an excessive force lawsuit allege that the Denver Police Department tolerates a “cowboy sub-culture” which celebrates the use of excessive force and protects officers from facing consequences for misconduct. The authoritarian mindset bred within Denver law enforcement appears to be a natural match with the bigoted, militaristic approach which Mr. Gorka advocates.
We spoke with Dr. Fouzi Slisli, a specialist in Islamic Studies, to understand how the Islamophobia spread by pundits like Sebastian Gorka relates to today’s wider political climate. Dr Slisli had this to say:
“There is a new demographic map in America. It is led by youth who are far more exposed to the world than their parents were. They reject racism, police brutality, foreign wars and Islamophobia. These youth prefer public transport to owning cars, shop in co-ops and dislike big chains, are community oriented and reject White Supremacy and American exceptionalism. There are 180 million of them and they are America’s future.
“The oligarchs, the Trumps, the Clintons and their mercenary loudspeakers and hired pens, like Sebastian Gorka, are hanging on to washed-out and expired ideologies, and will eventually get out of the way.”
We sent several questions to Daelene Mix, press coordinator for Denver’s Department of Safety. When asked about potential concerns given Gorka’s connection to the Trump campaign, she responded “The Denver Police Department/Department of Safety does not make inquiry into the political view of its employees.”
We also inquired about Gorka’s assertion that “we need to take political correctness out of the threat assessment”, to which the Department of Safety replied, “The Denver Police Department/Department of Safety does not take a position on the political views held by any individual.”
The Denver Police Department’s Public Information Officer did not respond to our request for comment.
We attempted to contact Sebastian Gorka, both via the “contact Dr. Gorka” form on the Threat Knowledge Group’s website as well as via Twitter. He did not respond to our list of questions and has blocked us on Twitter.
Primary source material used for this article:
- April 29, 2016 payment to Threat Knowledge Group from Denver Department of Safety
- Purchase order for Counter-terrorism Seminar
- Email Q&A exchange with Denver Department of Safety