Gorka’s overdue exit still leaves numerous figures to haunt the White House

There's still a lot to be worried about in this administration.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File
CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

National security adviser Sebastian Gorka has left the White House, according to several news reports on Friday — more than seven months after he attended the inauguration wearing a medal gifted by a group of Nazi collaborators.

The former Brietbart editor reportedly turned in his resignation letter after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly revoked his security clearance when he was still on vacation.

While it was never entirely clear what Gorka did in the White House, the mystery surrounding his position never stopped him from acting as a White House spokesperson, frequently appearing on television to spout white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic viewpoints. It was clear that Gorka was trouble from day one, when he attended Trump’s inauguration wearing a medal issued by Vitezi Rend, a group that the State Department identifies as Nazi collaborators during World War II. Following uproar, Gorka said that it was his father’s medal, worn as a reminder of the suffering his family faced. He failed to clarify why his father had a medal from an anti-Semitic group.

Gorka’s relationship with anti-Semitism went far beyond a medal. In February, the Forward reported that Gorka had links to several anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, and in April reported that he had been a member of Vitezi Rend for decades. Gorka has also publicly defended Nazi symbols, and, in his official capacity, the absence of any mention of the Jewish people in the White House’s annual Holocaust remembrance statement. Just two days before the violence in Charlottesville — where a white supremacist rally turned deadly —  Gorka argued the public should stop criticizing white supremacists so much.

Gorka, whose academic credentials are questionable at best, has a reputation abroad as well as in the United States: in Hungary, he is known as a “peddler of snake oil.” Across borders he is also notorious for his hard-line views on Islam, having previously called the racial profiling of Muslims “common sense” and the acceptance of Muslim refugees “national suicide.” Over the last seven months alone, Gorka has justified Trump’s Muslim ban by pointing to attacks that wouldn’t have been stopped by the ban, failed to confirm whether Trump believes Islam is a religion, and stormed out of a panel when asked about his ties to Nazis.

Still, it seemed Gorka might remain a prominent fixture at the White House. That is, until last week, when White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon resigned and returned to Breitbart, where he previously served as executive chairman and played a large role in helping to promote the white supremacist movement branded as the so-called “alt-right.” Gorka’s exit comes on the heels of Bannon’s exodus, part of a larger shift for the Trump administration.

But as ThinkProgress reported at the time of Bannon’s exit, his resignation didn’t mean the end of racist policy emanating from the White House — and Gorka’s clearly hasn’t either. On Friday, Trump pardoned Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was responsible for decades of racially profiling the Latinx community and found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing to abide by a 2011 order telling him to stop profiling people based on the color of their skin.

Moreover, other concerning figures remain in the Trump administration. Stephen Miller, a key Trump adviser, is known for his nativist views and retains a direct connection to white nationalist Richard Spencer, who has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and refers to Miller as his mentor. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway continuously defends some of Trump’s most bigoted policies and rhetoric — but even before she joined the administration, she worked for organizations spreading Islamophobic and nativist messages. (Conway’s company conducted the flawed poll that Trump cited in his announcement to ban all Muslims from the United States on the campaign trail.) Katharine Gorka, Sebastian Gorka’s wife, remains in the Department of Homeland Security, which has focused its attention on extremism from Islamic groups and moved away from analyzing white nationalist and neo-Nazi violence, part of a larger Trump administration shift. Attorney General Jeff Session, who was previously found too racist to be a federal judge, also remains a key driver of policy and rhetoric, as do several other figures.

It may be nice that Sebastian Gorka is no longer in the White House, but it’s strange that it took so long — and there are still plenty of other people to be worried about.