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Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s controversial prime minister and an ally of former President Trump, issued a call for conservatives in Europe and the United States to unite in the fight against the liberal global order, in remarks delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas on Thursday.
Orbán, who has exercised authoritarian rule over Hungary and employed rhetoric evoking Nazi propaganda, criticized the Biden administration as displaying weak leadership on the global stage and putting Brussels, the seat of the European Union, under “ideological pressure.”
“We must take back the institutions in Washington and in Brussels,” Orbán said.
The Hungarian leader’s remarks were largely met with cheers from the audience, which also issued loud boos when Orbán brought up billionaire-philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros.
Soros, who is Jewish and Hungarian American, is a high-profile target of the conservative right, with some criticism tying in antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Orbán called Soros his “opponent” and attacked him as having an “army at his service,” citing civil society and largely independent institutions like nongovernmental organizations, universities and the civil service.
Action for Democracy Board and Advisory Council, a U.S. based nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, slammed CPAC for inviting Orban and condemned his remarks as helping “legitimize fascist ideas and further fan the flames of intolerance in the US.”
“He railed against the free media, vilified George Soros, equated communists with liberals, and promoted culture war and civilizational confrontation, all the while staying silent on his close relationship to Vladimir Putin and the Chinese communist leadership,” the group said in a statement.
“We join Hungary’s chief rabbi Róbert Frölich, the International Auschwitz Committee, and many others who have condemned the use of fascist terminology and call upon U.S. political leaders on both sides of the aisle to condemn Orbán’s hateful rhetoric.”
Some Republicans in the U.S. view Orbán’s tenure as laying the groundwork for the far-right conservative movement internationally. His appearance in Texas followed his delivering a keynote address at a CPAC conference in Budapest in May, the first-ever European conference for the organization.
The Hungarian leader said he had come to Texas to tell the audience “how you should fight. My answer is play by your own rules.”
“We must coordinate a movement of our troops because we face the same challenge,” he continued, calling the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 presidential and congressional elections part of “the fight for civilization.”
Orbán emphasized Hungary’s hard-line policies criminalizing illegal migration and restricting marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.
“To sum up, the mother is a woman. The father is a man, and leave our kids alone, full stop, end of discussion.”
Orbán also reiterated a call for the U.S. to negotiate with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
“We, in the neighborhood of Ukraine, are desperately in need of strong leaders who are capable of negotiating a peace deal. … We need a strong America and a strong leader.”
The Biden administration has limited communication with Moscow and said it is only interested in talking with the Kremlin if they determine the Russians are serious about diplomacy.
Orbán secured a fourth term as Hungary’s prime minister in April and, while the election was considered fair according to international monitors, it was criticized as marred by an uneven playing field that favored Orbán’s Fidesz party.
The Hungarian leader is widely viewed as an autocratic leader that is eroding his country’s democratic institutions and promoting an isolationist, racist and discriminatory ideology.
Freedom House, which monitors the state of civil freedoms and democracy worldwide, rated Hungary as “partly free” in its 2022 Freedom in the World report, saying Orbán and his Fidesz party have passed laws restricting operations of opposition groups and free media, instituted ant-migrant and anti-LGBTQ policies and asserted government control over independent institutions, including the judiciary.
Orban is widely seen as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite saying that he is in “full solidarity” with Ukraine.
In a speech in Romania last month, Orban spoke out against European Union sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and said that Washington should negotiate with Moscow over Kyiv’s fate.
His speech was criticized as a “Nazi diatribe” by his longtime adviser Zsuzsa Hegedus, who resigned in protest over remarks in which he doubled down on wanting an “unmixed Hungarian race.”
Orban is also a close ally of Trump, whom he met earlier in the week at the former president’s golf club in New Jersey.
In January, Trump issued an endorsement for Orbán’s reelection, an unusual gesture that broke with diplomatic norms for potentially giving the impression of the U.S. interfering in a foreign country’s democratic process.
Updated at 6:16 p.m.