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Former Trump adviser speaks at UNC amid protests

Sebastian Gorka, former advisor to President Trump, spoke about his experience in the White House as well as what the American people can expect for the future.
Sebastian Gorka, former advisor to President Trump, spoke about his experience in the White House as well as what the American people can expect for the future.

Correction: An earlier version of this article implied J Street, CHispA and One Voice sponsored the protests outside Sebastian Gorka's speech. The student groups hosted a talk at the Campus Y after Gorka's speech. Deborah Friedman was misidentified as a Gorka supporter, and the context of her calling Andrew Curley a traitor was incorrect. Friedman called the person next to Curley a traitor. The article has been changed to reflect the clarification. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the mistake. 

First-year Alex Stephens was quick to answer what she expected from the event.

“Radicalism,” she said.

Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump administration adviser and current Fox News contributor, visited UNC Monday night to speak about U.S.-Israel relations and the Middle East.

The event, held in Genome Science Building, was hosted by UNC Christians United for Israel, UNC College Republicans and UNC Turning Point USA.

Students voiced frustrations and concerns surrounding Gorka’s political positions during and after the event.  J Street, CHispA and One Voice hosted a talk at the Campus Y after the event to discuss Gorka's politics as well as how to engage in strategic opposition, while protesters gathered outside Genome during Gorka's speech. 

Protestors created a variety of signs and posters before the Sebastian Gorka's November speech on campus.

Gorka, who left the Trump administration in August for Fox News, focused on the Trump administration, the president's character and U.S. relations with the Middle East.

“You actually know who the president is,” he said. “Why? Because the president in public and the president behind closed doors is exactly the same man. What you see is what you get.”

Gorka said both domestic socialism and terrorism represented major threats to America.

“We are facing another totalitarian threat to our freedom, but this time, under this president, we will take that threat seriously,” he said. “The President of the United States is an unstoppable steam locomotive.”

Gorka was confident about the Trump administration’s long-term strategy, despite concerns stemming from his own and Steve Bannon’s resignations.

“The point is: Relax. Count to 10. Take a deep breath," he said. "This is about the long game. This isn’t about the first eight months. This is about the first full eight years, followed by the eight years of President Pence."

Will Rierson, the president of UNC College Republicans, said the event went very well, and Gorka gave a lot of great insight.

“I was happy to see that no one interrupted the event,” he said after Gorka finished speaking.

When asked about the protests, Gorka smiled.

“I didn’t even hear them,” he said. “They’re victims of fake news.”

Faisal Khan, director of Carolina Peace Center, said beforehand that the event went beyond the realm of free speech because it was hateful and divisive.

“I’m all open for a constructive conversation and dialogue, but invite people who are credible," he said. "How can you invite a person to talk about Israel and Palestine — as difficult and as conflicted as that issue is — a person who is known to be an Islamophobe, a person who is known to be connected to a group in Hungary that’s anti-semitic."

Protesters clashed with Gorka supporters before the event began. Deborah Friedman, a supporter of the Israeli State from Hillsborough, and Andrew Curley, a protester and Geography post-doctoral student at UNC, engaged in a nonphysical shouting match.

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“You people never listen,” Friedman said.

Friedman called a protester standing next to Curley a traitor. 

Curley said Friedman approached him saying that he didn't have a relevant opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because he had never been to Israel.  

“The U.S. has a strong influence on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and it’s the moral and ethical duty of all U.S. citizens to inform themselves of what’s going there and come to a position on it,” Curley said. 

Deborah Friedman, a resident of Hillsborough, clashes with post-doctorate geography student Andrew Curley as he holds a "Free Palestine" sign.

Andrew Reynolds, a UNC political science professor, received national attention last spring for questioning Gorka’s academic credibility. Reynolds said Gorka’s Ph.D. was received under unfair circumstances.

Before the event, Reynolds said via email he pities Gorka’s failures and delusions.

"Part of me has become to feel somewhat sad for Mr. Gorka,” he said. “People who know him paint him as a deeply troubled and delusional character. Yes, he is racist, anti-semitic and a confidence trickster but he has very publicly failed in every career he has tried. When I exposed his fraudulent Ph.D., countless former colleagues wrote to me to tell me of their shock that such a dangerous failure could have the president’s ear. He is now reduced to peddling his bigoted circus sideshow in front of private audiences hosted by fellow travelers.

"I doubt he came to Carolina because of me; I doubt he knows what a university is."

Gorka avoided firm generalizations about Islam during his talk.

“We are not at war with Islam, let me be clear on that. That is absolutely fallacious and dangerous,” he said. 

A member of Turning Point USA holds one of their promotional signs across the street from the protesters.

Gorka told The Daily Tar Heel he was not concerned about the current Russia investigation hindering the president’s ability to fight terrorism.

“Look at the results of the last nine months. I think not, we’re crushing it,” he said. “The president told me, when we were in the (Oval Office) alone, and he said, and I totally believe him: ‘They will not find anything because there is nothing.’ Look, what have they done? Wire fraud from 11 years ago with regards to the Ukraine? This was supposed to be about Russia, and the president, and Manafort — that was everything you needed to know.”

Gorka ended his talk by calling the state department a rogue agency, not obeying President Trump, and reinforcing his support for Israel.

“America is the greatest nation that man ever made,” he said. "Israel is the greatest nation that God ever made.”