BuzzFeed investigation finds alleged ‘snake oil’ peddler in the White House

National security aide Sebastian Gorka is “a peddler of snake oil,” a Hungarian intelligence official told BuzzFeed.

CREDIT: Screengrab via VOANews.com
CREDIT: Screengrab via VOANews.com

From day one of the Trump administration, national security adviser Sebastian Gorka has had a rough go of it.

First, reporters started asking awkward questions about his sartorial choices at President Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities. That’s because Gorka, a British-born Hungarian national, showed up in garb that evoked Vitézi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group linked to the Third Reich. Then the Forward, a Jewish-American publication, started digging into Gorka’s political activities during his years in Budapest, and found extensive links to other right-wing, anti-Semitic organizations. Most recently, the Forward alleged that Gorka has been a member of Vitézi Rend for decades.

Now BuzzFeed has released the findings of its own investigation into Gorka’s past. It has some good news and bad news for the former Breitbart contributor. The good news: Hungarian officials denied to BuzzFeed that Gorka is a Nazi. The bad news: Those same Hungarian officials also described Gorka as a complete fraud.

“Gorka is, how do you say in English — a peddler of snake oil,” one former Hungarian intelligence official told BuzzFeed.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in London and pursuing a brief stint in the British army reserves, Gorka spent the better part of the 1990s getting involved in post-Cold War Hungarian politics and defense policy. According to BuzzFeed, Gorka tried to bolster his CV by boasting that he had been a member of the British intelligence service MI6 — a claim that appears to have been false.

BuzzFeed’s Hungarian intelligence source offered this cold assessment:

“These claims were not considered credible because by this point we understood that Gorka and many like him didn’t return to Hungary because of patriotism or skills but rather because they couldn’t be successful in the West, where they were born or raised, and thus wanted to come to Hungary. So do we believe that he was an MI6 agent like he claimed? No, he’s not smart enough or well-trained enough.”

If Gorka did, in fact, invent a fictional espionage career for himself, that might not be the only vial of snake oil he’s sold. Multiple scholars have also called Gorka’s academic credentials into question — a particularly sore spot for a man who reportedly can’t stop reminding people he has a doctorate.

Gorka earned that doctorate at Hungary’s Corvinus University. A handful of American experts who have read his doctoral dissertation came away with a low opinion of it.

“I would not characterize it as a work of scholarship. I am confident that it would not earn him a doctorate at any reputable academic department in the United States,” wrote Georgetown University political scientist Daniel Nexon in a post on the blog Lawyers Guns and Money. “Indeed, it would be unacceptable as an undergraduate thesis for the Department of Government or the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My guess is that Gorka wanted to call himself ‘Doctor,’ and his PhD-granting institution was happy to oblige.”

A diagram from Gorka’s dissertation. CREDIT: lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com
A diagram from Gorka’s dissertation. CREDIT: lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com

Andrew Reynolds, a professor of political science at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, wrote on his academic page that Gorka’s dissertation “was approved by a fraudulent panel of examiners,” two of whom (out of three) did not, themselves, have doctorates.

“ In sum, Gorka’s Ph.D is about as legitimate as if he had been awarded it by Trump University,” wrote Reynolds.

Gorka did not reply to BuzzFeed’s multiple requests for comment. Earlier this week, he fled a Georgetown University panel after students asked about his Vitézi Rend links and Islamophobic Breitbart posts.