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Hungarian authoritarian leader tells US conservatives to join his culture war

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Updated August 4, 2022 at 5:55 PM ET

When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in the United States this week, he bypassed the White House and President Biden to visit the more laudable U.S. President. met the president

It was en route to the annual meeting of the Conservative Party Political Action Conference in Dallas, where Orban delivered a kickoff speech Thursday afternoon.

Orban dismissed such criticism on Thursday.

“Don’t worry, no Christian politician can be racist, so don’t be afraid to lash out at your opponents on these issues,” Orban told the Texas audience. Told. “Certainly: Christian values ​​protect us from excesses.”

For many right-wing Republicans, Orban offers a model for electoral success. His endurance–he won his fourth straight term as prime minister in his April–is based on an unrepentant appeal to Hungary’s white and Christian heritage, which also supports civil liberties. It also relies on a series of crackdowns on and domestic dissent.

In Thursday’s speech, Orban described the political struggles in both Europe and the United States as intense cultural battles over issues such as immigration, same-sex marriage and policing.

“They hate me and slander me and my country, just as they hate and slander you,” he said, identifying Democrats and liberals as enemies.

His rhetoric saw Pat Buchanan, who failed the 1992 Republican presidential election, declare that “a religious war is underway in this country” and that “the soul of America” ​​is at stake. It was a reminder.

Orbán was given intellectual credit in the United States by Rod Dreher of the American Conservative Party and exceptional exposure by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, whom Orbán called out again today. The prime-time cable star played a major role in introducing Orban to a wider audience in the country through interviews, documentary series, and repeated arguments that the Hungarian leader’s approach would make America better. Both have shaken off the more problematic implications of Orban’s rhetoric. On his show Wednesday night, Carlson even offered what he presented as an apology to one of Orban’s advisers on behalf of the American media.

“Just a few years ago, his views would have been seen as moderate and mediocre,” Carlsson said last summer when presenting a week’s worth of Fox shows from Hungary. thinks family is more important than a bank.He believes a country needs borders.By saying these things out loud, Orban was slandered.”

In May, Orban returned his support, saying the conservative media cannot compete with what he called the “dominant media.”

According to a translation provided by CNN, Orban said at a CPAC division meeting in Budapest in May, “Only my friend Tucker Carlson took his own life without hesitation. ‘ said. “A program like his should run day and night. Like you say, 24/7.”

Many of Hungary’s policies will offend the American right. Abortion is legal to some extent in Hungary. The state severely limits personal gun ownership. And the government provides health care for everyone.

Differences like that make no difference to fans seeking inspiration from a strong leader. At his CPAC convention in May, Carlsson appeared on videotape and expressed his support for Orban’s Hungary.

CPAC speaker list includes senators, media stars and conspiracy theorists

The CPAC conference excites a hardline conservative cadre of donors and activists. Speakers announced in Dallas include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, conspiracy peddler Jack Posobiek, and Trump. The two men often complimented each other when Trump was in office. Both warmly welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Orban repeated Trump’s attacks on wake-up and cancel culture and other hot issues captured by Republican politicians. aiming rhetorically. Soros is often the target of Fox’s Carlson and other right-wingers. (Carlson covered the full documentary on Soros’ streaming service, Fox Nation, in January.)

Vanderbilt University historian Nicole Hemmer says Orban’s appeal to the conservative media is a reflection of authoritarian figures of the last few decades, such as the leader of South Africa’s apartheid regime and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. It claims to reflect lionization.

“These leaders turned to right-wing media to gain access to American audiences, hoping that audiences would put pressure on American leaders and strengthen American support for their regimes.” “For a host of right-wingers, it was a chance both to support Cold War allies and to embrace a set of racial politics that had become increasingly unacceptable within the country. The same dynamics are at work today in Orban.” I think that there.”

Orban has promoted a vision of a decidedly Christian, white Hungary protected by strict borders and a harsh policy that kept out immigrants. His ruling party has also rooted out political opponents, bribed or starved independent voices in the press and universities, and targeted human rights groups.

Last week, the senior adviser resigned after Orban’s speech, which she called a “pure Nazi speech,” in which Orban repeatedly condemned the idea of ​​”mixed race” in Hungary. Spokespeople for Carlson and Orban, who declined to comment today, did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Alon Demeter, program director of Amnesty International in Hungary, said Orban is adept at presenting itself as if it were “fighting for its values”.Amnesty is Orban’s right-wing populist One of the independent groups targeted by the Fides Party.

“He’s fighting for the old white world or old white Europe where men were men and women were women,” Demeter told NPR. Or if there were gay people, they stayed at home.”

The US-based human rights group Freedom House calls Hungary a hybrid regime in transition between democracy and dictatorship.

“In Hungary, democracy focused on press freedom and LGBTQ rights is retreating,” says Flora Garamvorzy, a Hungarian journalist who has written about Orban’s relationship with conservatives in the United States. “And whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, I don’t think that aligns with American values.”

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