CNN analyst Brian Karem challenged Sebastian Gorka to a fight at a White House event Thursday, leading to a made-for-social media showdown.
The two men got into a shouting match over journalist ethics after President Donald Trump delivered an address in the Rose Garden. Karem was covering the speech along with the usual journalists, while Gorka was on hand with other conservative social media influencers, who had just finished a summit with the president.
As the war-of-words escalated, Gorka’s fellow influencers began taunting Karem, who is also Playboy’s senior White House correspondent.
“Don’t be sad,” someone said.
“This is a group of people who are eager for demonic possession,” Karem retorted, prompting laughter from the crowd.
Looking flustered and sweaty, Karem then challenged Gorka to take it outside, prompting the former White House staffer to storm across the lawn.
“You’re threatening me in the Rose Garden,” Gorka bellowed in Karem’s face. “You’re not a journalist. You’re a punk.”
A chant of “Gorka! Gorka! Gorka!” broke out among the influencers. Joy Villa, a singer-songwriter and Trump supporter – who wore an American flag gown emblazoned with the word “Freedom” – joined the chants. After filming the exchange, she laughed and declared, “Fake news is over.”
On Friday, Trump made it official with a tweet declaring Gorka the winner of the exchange.
@SebGorka Wins Big, No Contest!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Later in the day, the Trump administration granted Gorka an interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Sebastian Gorka vs. the White House press
Liberal commentators had pooh-poohed Trump’s social media summit as beneath the dignity of the White House, and they pointed to the Rose Garden fracas as further proof. Dozens of journalists shared a viral clip of the confrontation that excluded Karem’s instigating comments and only showed the aftermath.
Donald Trump invited a cabal of online fascists, conspiracy theorists, and Nazi coddling thugs to the White House today to threaten and intimidate the professional reporters he intends to replace. https://t.co/F00GObyff4
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) July 11, 2019
However, Caleb Hull sought to correct the record by tweeting out a longer version of the video, taking from a different angle.
“It’s like Covington all over again,” Hull commented, referring to coverage of a January confrontation between Catholic high school boys and a Native American protestor based on a single deceptively edited clip.
Dozens of journos tried to play the victim today by tweeting a video only showing the very end of the altercation between @SebGorka and @BrianKarem, leaving out that Karem instigated it and challenged him to a fight.
It’s like Covington all over again. pic.twitter.com/xqVCgW6Gf7
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) July 12, 2019
“Creations of the Trump era”
Indeed, the gap between traditional journalism and social media chatter isn’t always as wide as some would like to believe. Outgoing New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler acknowledged the point in an analysis published Friday.
“Mr. Gorka and Mr. Karem are each, in their own way, creations of the Trump era,” Landler noted. “A national security analyst with a specialty in Islamic extremism, Mr. Gorka labored on the fringes of Washington until he was hired to work with Mr. Trump’s former strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. He left the White House in August 2017, part of a housecleaning ordered by the former chief of staff, John F. Kelly.”
“Mr. Karem was until recently the executive editor of The Montgomery County Sentinel, a chain of newspapers in Rockville, Md.,” he continued. “He separated himself from the jostling scrum of reporters at the White House daily briefing in June 2017 by confronting the former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, after she unleashed a lengthy attack on the credibility of the news media.”
Landler diplomatically refrained from spelling out the subtext: Karem may pose as superior to Trump and his supporters. But he, and much of the press, are playing the president’s game.
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