A row has erupted over the alleged affiliation of an official in Donald Trump’s administration with an antisemitic, far-right group in Hungary.
Sebastian Gorka, Mr Trump’s anti-terrorism adviser, has been accused of being a formal member of the Vitezi Rend group, which is listed by the US State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during the Second World War.
On Tuesday, the American Jewish website the Forward refused to apologise after an article it published caused a storm of controversy over allegations that Mr Gorka had lied about his association with Vitezi Rend.
In its original article, the Forward cited interviews with leading members of Vitezi Rend, who reportedly stated that Mr Gorka was sworn in as a member of Historical Vitez Rend, one of two groups in Hungary which uphold the nationalist principles established by the antisemitic founder of the original group, Admiral Miklos Horthy.
At Mr Trump’s inauguration in January, Mr Gorka, whose father was a member of Vitezi Rend, was seen wearing the group’s medal. Documents have also reportedly emerged which he signed using the initial “v”, which only members of the group are permitted to use.
The Forward also quoted a retired immigration judge, Bruce Einhorn, who said Mr Gorka, who was born in Britain, should have disclosed his membership of the group when he applied for citizenship of the United States in 2012.
However, writing in Tablet magazine, Liel Leibovitz challenged the allegations made by the Forward: “Have you lost your minds?” he asked.
Tablet quoted Mr Gorka as saying: “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 honour his struggle against totalitarianism.”
Meanwhile, writing in Algemeiner, Sarah Stern, president of the pro-Israel Endowment for Middle East Truth, claimed Mr Gorka was a “the staunchest friend of Israel and the Jewish people”.
The Forward responded by reaffirming its three sources in Vitezi Rend and pointing out that when Mr Gorka issued an official statement on the matter through the White House, he had failed to specifically deny being a member of the group.
“What matters is the public has the right to ask whether a man with alarming associations, a checkered academic resume, an extreme – some say, radical – ideology, no confirmed security clearance and questionable immigration status should be in the room when issues of national security are debated and decided,” said a piece in the Forward on Tuesday.
Vitezi Rend is symbolic for some as a reminder of the resistance against Communism in Hungary and by others as an emblem of white, Christian nationalism.
The Anne Frank Centre in New York and some Democratic senators have called for the resignation of Mr Gorka.