Far-right government consultant defends Tusnádfürdő speech on public TV

Hungary’s M1, the main public television channel, interviewed economist and Orbán government consultant Csaba Lentner, airing his views on why journalists in the West reacted so critically and fiercely to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s infamous ‘illiberal’ speech in Tusnádfürdő, Romania, last weekend. What the state broadcaster (which is hardly known for its fair and balanced reporting, even though they are creating programming on the dime of Hungarian taxpayers) neglected to mention, is that Mr. Lentner was a former Member of Parliament between 1998 and 2002, representing the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP).

Public broadcaster M1 is known for its blatantly one-sided, pro-government reporting.

Public broadcaster M1 is known for its blatantly one-sided, pro-government reporting.

Mr. Lentner, along with pro-government pollster Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, expressed on M1’s evening news that western media outlets and journalists (including Newsweek, The Washington Post and the New York Times) were critical of Mr. Orbán’s speech because they were under the influence of the “financial interests”  that opposed the government’s pre-election reduction in utility bills, as well as Fidesz’s more recent special taxes on banks and on the country’s most popular independent television station, RTL Klub. “The New York Times article is an implicit attack,” asserted Mr. Lentner, who then went on to argue (rather bizarrely) that he thought it may even contravene international law that journalists from the United States were putting pressure on the European Union to finally take action against Hungary’s Orbán regime. It is worth noting that Mr. Lenter is now a department chair at Budapest’s Public Service University, which was established three years ago by the Orbán government.

Mr. Mráz, associated with polling firm Nézőpont–which is widely known for receiving significant government contracts each year– explained to the journalists of M1 that Mr. Orbán’s decision to impose punitive special taxes on banks and on the German-owned RTL Klub television station, as well as the government’s decision to force utility companies to lower their rates, hurt the interests of a “special interest group.”

The New York Times article in question has called upon the European Union, which is once again unable to act effectively and decisively, to invoke Article 7, which would temporarily deprive Hungary of its vote on the European Council and would freeze the 21 billion euros in cohesion funds currently earmarked for Hungary.

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