The 22nd season of “Arthur,” the animated children’s series about an anthropomorphic aardvark.
Gorka, who brandished the insignia of a historically Nazi-aligned Hungarian group called the Vitezi Rend at an inauguration ball in January 2017, flew into a rage because the season’s Monday premiere featured a gay wedding. Arthur’s third-grade teacher, Nigel Ratburn, exchanges vows with a local chocolatier, an aardvark named Patrick.
“This is a war for our culture, and that’s why we exist here, on ‘America First,’ on the Salem Radio Network,” Gorka said.
To Arthur and his friends, their teacher’s decision to tie the knot was hardly a battle cry.
“Yep. It’s a brand new world,” remarks Francine, subtly announcing the moral lesson of the episode, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.”
The show makes no explicit reference to the gender of the newlyweds, suggesting that their union is unremarkable. The approach won plaudits from LGBTQ advocacy organizations. GLAAD congratulated Mr. Ratburn on Twitter, adding a rainbow emoji.
But Gorka, who briefly served as a spokesman for Trump on national security matters before he left the White House in the summer of 2017, saw something insidious at work. The diversity showcased on “Arthur” fit a pattern of left-wing demagoguery he identified in everything from the revolutionary Reign of Terror in France to the administration of President Barack Obama.
The ideology on display — in Mr. Ratburn’s nuptials and the rest — was that, “Civil society doesn’t exist, friendship doesn’t exist, family doesn’t exist,” Gorka maintained. “Only permanent revolution.”
The “permanent revolution” pursued by “Arthur,” Gorka steamed, had to do with “family.”
He said his issue with “Arthur,” which began in 1996 and airs on PBS Kids, was personal.
“My children used to watch ‘Arthur’ 15 years ago, about a rodent-like creature that lived and had fun in his cartoon world,” Gorka said. “The new season of ‘Arthur’ will have one of Arthur’s teachers at school, a male teacher, married to a fellow male rodent.”
To the right-wing commentator and rabble-rouser, who was a close ally of former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, the story line sharpened cultural divisions.
“Did you have any questions about there being a culture war, ladies and gentlemen?” he asked his listeners. “Did you have any doubt in your mind?"
Gorka was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and became a naturalized American citizen in 2012. A biography at the Institute of World Politics, a Washington-based graduate school where he is a nonresident scholar, calls Gorka an “internationally recognized authority on issues of national security, irregular warfare, terrorism and democratization.”
Mainstream counterterrorism experts regard his views as extreme, in particular his judgment that Islam predisposes its adherents to violence. His elevation from the fringe of the foreign policy establishment to the White House was a signal of how Trump’s presidency had given new credence to anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Democratic senators pressed for an investigation into the adviser, who eagerly defended the president’s nationalist agenda on cable television but was forced out in August 2017 under restructuring pursued by former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly.
Gorka remained a Fox News contributor through this year, when he decided not to renew his contract so that he could pursue his radio show, as well as a position with Sinclair Broadcast Group, as he told the Hollywood Reporter.
The far-right culture warrior has exchanged the world of the West Wing for the world of conservative talk radio. But in the “cartoon world” inhabited by Arthur, he doesn’t like the changes he’s seeing.
It’s not the first time that themes in the animated universe have drawn conservative ire. In 2005, PBS chose not to distribute an episode of “Postcards from Buster,” a spinoff following Arthur’s rabbit confidant, which included lesbian mothers. The decision came after Margaret Spellings, then-education secretary under President George W. Bush, raised “strong and very serious concerns” about the episode.
“Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode,” she wrote to PBS executives. “Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.”
Marc Brown, the creator of “Arthur,” took a different view.
In the episode in question, he said at the time, “we are validating children who are seldom validated.”