Sebastian Gorka speech raises questions of free speech at UNC
Sebastian Gorka, former adviser to President Donald Trump, spoke about terrorism and U.S. relations with Israel under heavy security at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday night.
Outside, about 45 protesters held up signs that said “Destroy White Supremacy” and shouted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fascist scum has got to go!”
The chants were barely audible from inside the auditorium where the speech was held. The demonstrators were kept out of the building by a line of campus police officers who stood at the doors of the event, which was sponsored by UNC’s College Republicans, Turning Point USA and Christians United For Israel. The speech was partially funded by student fees approved by UNC’s student government.
Aside from a brief shouting match between a pro-Palestine protester and an Israel supporter outside the building, there was little confrontation. But the event served as an early test of a proposed free speech policy for the state’s public campuses, which would require punishment for protesters who substantially disrupt speakers. The policy, mandated by the legislature earlier this year, will be considered next month by the UNC Board of Governors.
Gorka spoke about the defeat of communism and suggested that polls show new support for socialism among millenials. He described his father’s upbringing in Nazi-held Hungary and repeated the Cold War warnings of President Ronald Reagan, who said freedom was one generation away from extinction.
He talked about his former boss, describing him as “Kryptonite to political correctness” and an “unstoppable steam locomotive.” Gorka maintained that Trump is neither an isolationist nor an interventionist.
“We are facing another totalitarian threat to our freedom, but this time, under this president, we will take that threat seriously,” Gorka said.
The comment prompted applause from about 200 people at the UNC’s Genome Science Building.
Gorka served Trump for eight months until August, when he left the administration. He said the departure was his decision, but media outlets reported that he was forced out. He is a contributor to Fox News.
The tough-talking former aide’s freewheeling speech meandered through the Middle East, from Yemen to Syria to Iran to Saudi Arabia.
He spoke about his time in the White House, and described his first meeting at Trump Tower, when then-candidate Trump hired him. He took aim at the media, saying fake news is a real phenomenon, and he called the U.S. State Department “a rogue agency.”
Despite Trump’s approval rating of just 38 percent, Gorka predicted an eight-year presidency for him, followed by eight years of Mike Pence as president.
At the end of his talk, he declared, “America is the greatest nation man ever made, and Israel is the greatest nation God ever made.” While Gorka was greeted by a warm audience of students and community members, the crowd outside shouted their disapproval.
“We want to make it very clear that this university just doesn’t support any of his values, and the student body rejects his values,” said Emma Boggess, a sophomore from Chapel Hill, who joined the demonstration.
Free expression goes both ways, Boggess said.
“You can’t limit one group’s free speech and allow another’s,” she said. “That being said, I don’t appreciate that the university is endorsing this type of speaker here.”