U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka insults, threatens, and attacks journalists

Published On
February 23, 2018
Seb Gorka and Caleb Ecarma

Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka lectures Mediaite reporter Caleb Ecarma after shoving him, in this screengrab from a video shot by Daily Beast reporter Max Tani.

— Daily Beast/Max Tani

“You are the epitome of fake news,” former Trump White House adviser Sebastian Gorka told a journalist yesterday. “You are wasting your time here, cause we’re patriots here.” In an audio recording obtained by Freedom of the Press Foundation, he continued, “We don’t want to destroy the country, or hang out with people like yourself who don’t like this country.”

Gorka seemed to spend the first two days of the Conservative Political Action Conference insulting, taunting, threatening, and—in at least one case—physically attacking journalists.

ThinkProgress reporter Kira Lerner had approached the former Trump White House adviser to ask him about a video posted on Twitter that had quickly gone viral earlier that morning. In it, Gorka can be seen shoving Mediaite reporter Caleb Ecarma, raising his hand as if to strike him, and then telling him to “fuck off.”

Lerner’s colleague at ThinkProgress, Addy Baird, had also requested comment Gorka earlier in the day about the altercation with Ecarma. When she told Gorka that she was with ThinkProgress, he told her, “ThinkProgress isn’t reporters. I’m not interested.” He started walking away, but then turned around and whistled at her. “I have a comment for you,” Baird says Gorka told her. “You’re as much of a reporter as he is,” referring to Caleb Ecarma.

Gorka refused to answer Lerner’s and Baird’s questions because of the media outlet they represent. In fact, according to numerous reporters present at CPAC yesterday near Washington, D.C., Gorka denied interviews to any progressive news organization that approached him.

He did, however, speak with the Daily Signal, the news organization of right-wing The Heritage Foundation. The Daily Beast reported that although Gorka denied interviews with the Beast and Comedy Central’s The Opposition, he told a representative of WorldNetDaily to text him.

HuffPost politics reporter Igor Bobic tweeted that he “nearly got into a fight with Sebastian Gorka at a bar at CPAC” after asking him why he blocks people on Twitter. (However, Gorka’s allies present at CPAC have contested Bobic’s claim in replies on Twitter.)

On the second day of CPAC on Friday, Kira Lerner approached Gorka to again ask him about the altercation with Ecarma. “I’m asking you for comment on the video of you assaulting a reporter,” she can be heard saying in audio obtained by Freedom of the Press Foundation. After initially refusing to speak to her, calling her an illegitimate journalist because she works for ThinkProgress, he then claimed that Ecarma “wanted a fight.”

“He’s a lunatic,” Gorka responds. “He said he wanted to have a pistol duel with me in D.C. He’s unhinged, and I have the emails, and I’m going to put out a restraining order on him, because he stalked me in Florida. He’s not mentally fit.”

Caleb Ecarma told Freedom of the Press Foundation that when he bumped into Gorka at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida last December, Gorka lunged at him and had to be pulled off by security. The tension between the two began months earlier in October, when Ecarma got into a heated email exchange with Gorka after accusing him on Twitter of illegally parking his car.

Sebastian Gorka’s advisory role to President Trump was deeply controversial—he allegedly has ties to white supremacist and Hungarian fascist groups. While still working for the White House, he accused BBC radio journalists of being part of a “fake news industrial complex.”  

After he left the White House last August, he announced that he would be returning to Breitbart News and later accepted a position as a national security analyst for Fox News. But despite working for two media organizations, Gorka continues to aggressively berate and attempt to intimidate journalists.

It is troubling enough when a public figure like Gorka attacks or insults reporters with any media outlet that he deems “irrelevant” or “fake news”, or those that he claims hate America. But Gorka also has the ear of the President, who has spent his first year in office incessantly attacking the press and threatening news organizations and journalists with lawsuits over coverage he doesn’t like. Gorka’s treatment of the press at CPAC is emblematic of a worrying and callous disregard for the First Amendment embodied by many public figures close to the Trump Administration.

Sebastian Gorka did not immediately respond to a request by Freedom of the Press Foundation for comment.

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