The case of Attila Danku – diplomats shadow and attack Orbán critics in the US

In the last couple of years the Hungarian government has built a network of diplomats, loyalists and sympathizers in the United States to watch, follow and verbally attack critics of the Orbán regime.  This is not a secret operation, it is the official policy of the Orbán government that Hungarian diplomats (and loyal friends) “respond” to those who dare to criticize Mr. Orbán’s policies anywhere, anytime (Read more here)

Here is how it works.

In September 2017, Mr. Bálint Magyar gave a presentation at the University of California at Berkeley entitled; Parallel System Narratives: Polish and Hungarian Regime Formations Compared. Mr. Magyar is a noted sociologist and former Hungarian Minister of Education; he was invited by John Connelly, Professor of History at UC Berkeley.

The event took place at a smaller room in the Wildavsky Center.  The place was packed, standing room only and I was lucky to get a seat.  The moderator of the event was Jason Wittenberg, political science Professor.

During the Q&A a young man stood up and delivered a lengthy personal attack against Mr. Magyar.

He called him unpatriotic because SZDSZ (Mr. Magyar’s old party) did not support Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary. He also called Mr. Magyar a socialist who represents a “corrupt SZDSZ” and an overall liar.  The lengthy tirade against Mr. Magyar had little to do with the presentation and it seemed that he was reading it from his smartphone.

Prof. Wittenberg stopped the tirade and asked him to get to his question.  When the tirade continued Wittenberg took away the microphone from the young man.  The audience was stunned.  It turned out that the man was a diplomat of the Orbán Government named Mr. Attila Danku, Investment and Trade Commissioner, who travelled over 400 miles from the Hungarian Consulate Los Angeles to deliver the verbal attack.  According to his CV his job is to create and explore “various business related opportunities and directly connecting various US and Hungarian business entities.”

***

I visited Debrecen, Hungary, in the following year and by chance in the city paper I read about the unexpected death of a local politician.  Attila Danku was a member of the City Council and supporter of the Orbán government who died prematurely in 2017 at the age of 61.  The name sounded familiar and it turned out that he was the father of our attacking diplomat in California, who bears the junior version of his name, Attila Danku Jr.   His brother, Peter Danku is also a Hungarian diplomat in Brussels.

Mr. Danku (right), Consul General Tamás Széles (middle) and staffer

Now things started to fall in place.  The Consul General in Los Angeles is Mr. Tamás Széles, also from Debrecen where he used to run the local television network.  Debrecen’s ex-mayor, Lajos Kósa and Fidesz MP, János Halász both visited the LA Consulate.  This is a closely knit circle of trusted loyalists from the eastern-Hungarian town.

I also asked around about Danku in California.   To my surprise he was well-known as he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for years as a Hungarian Government employee, although nobody exactly knew what he was doing.  He and his wife, Krisztina Danku-Molnár were active members of the Free Magyar Reformed Church in Redwood City, California, many people knew them there.

Attila Danku and his wife, Krisztina

The pastor of the Free Magyar Reformed Church was Gábor Magyari-Köpe, who hails from Transylvania, Romania.  A pleasant young man with a Stanford-University-researcher wife.  They arrived to California from Sweden where he served at a local Hungarian Church.  He has never lived in Hungary, yet he supported enthusiastically the far-right Orbán regime and frequently hosted Hungarian government politicians. Consul András Doncsev spoke at the Church and in 2018 even the President of Hungary, János Áder visited the Church on an unofficial tour!

I asked Pastor Magyari-Köpe about his relations with Hungarian government politicians and the fact that many suspect that a member of his congregation is spying on behalf of the Orbán government.  He did not respond and later I learned that he transferred to Florida, to the Miami Hungarian Church.

The 2017 Berkeley University incident was widely publicized.  I expected that at least someone from the Hungarian American community would respond to Danku’s verbal attack.   But no, there was not one critical note.  The Diaspora Council, the Friends of Hungary organization, the Honorary Consuls and the Hungarian Churches all remained quiet.

The lone response came from the Hungarian Parliament.  Mr. Szilárd Németh, Vice-Chairman of the ruling FIDESZ party in a Parliament speech complimented (!) Mr. Danku’s action and declared that this was the proper way “to defend Hungary” against a “Berkeley liberal” attack.  (Watch the attached video. Mr. Németh’s speech in Hungarian.)

Beyond the potential legal, political and other implications, I find it disturbing that Hungarian diplomats shadow and attack Orbán’s critics in the US.  This is happening with the quiet support of some Hungarian American organizations.  It seems that newly arrived (and somewhat naïve) Hungarian immigrants are targeted and successfully recruited to promote Orbán’s nationalist agenda and attack US critics who are often labelled as “anti-Hungarian” or simply “Soros agents.”  Many of the new immigrants are from Transylvania, not even familiar with the situation in Hungary and willing to serve as patsies in this endeavor.   Some receive financial funding via the Bethlen Alap, a mechanism which was set up to support “Hungarian national unity” in the US.

We asked the Hungarian Consulate in Los Angeles to explain Attila Danku’s activities.  No response from them either.

György Lázár

8 Comments

  1. The HU government during the past few years opened several consulates at US locations to support their political agenda. Also, the Korosi-Csoma program sends young “students” to the US and Canada on government-paid “scholarships” to infiltrate HU groups and spread the regime’s propaganda. (None of them are enrolled as students.) They are violating US law because they are not registered as foreign agents.

  2. Avatar Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS says:

    Dear Gyuri,

    You have been complaining that nobody responded to your provoking questions in connection with the incident. I am sorry for read that.

    I am afraid I have to disappoint you even more: I will not reply to you either.
    .
    Let me disappoint you even more: I’m sorry but I have not been paid by the Hungarian government for doing any political actions in the USA, I have been living in Hungary, but in fact I have (Hungarian) and Hungarian – Judean roots from Transylvania (an épart of Romania since 1919).
    .
    Dear Gyuri, I must apologize, please forgive me, but I am not an enemy but an ADMIRER OF THE USA, AND I AM A FRIEND OF THE USA, what I consider as Homeland of Freedom, and the Greatest Friend of my Homeland, Hungary. I used to live in the USA and consider it as a second homeland of mine.
    .
    I do ot to know the Danku brothers but have as negative an opinion of Mr. Tamás Széles as possible.
    .
    Mr. Széles should not be in his position, because his activity in Los Angeles is extremely harmful and counterproductive from the point of view of the Hungarian Government. The activities of Mr. Tamás Széles in the USA is a catastrophe.
    .
    But I know Mr. Bálint Magyar extremely well.

    We both used to be founding members of the first free Hungarian Democratic Trade Union of the Scientific coworkers in 1988, called TDDSZ.

    If you are interested in my personal opinion about Mr. Magyar, let me share it with you: I consider him as an unpatriotic traitor of the Hungarian democracy, because the SZDSZ (Mr. Magyar’s old party) has been a collaborator of the Communists, his party made a governing coalition with the communists under Gyula Horn in 1994-98 and under the D-239 secrete police agent Péter Medgyessy in 2002-2006 and under the morally insane Ferenc Gyurcsány in 2006-2010.

    These years are the darkest ones in late Hungarian history.
    .
    The actions of Bálint Magyar (as Minister of education) were catastrophic.

    I also consider Bálint Magyar as a homeland traitor since did not support Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary
    .
    I also called Mr. Magyar a crypto-communist who represents a “corrupt SZDSZ” and an overall liar.
    .
    Otherwise, Bálint is a nice guy.

    Let me hope I was informative enough, was not I?
    This is the opinion of about 15 million “ethnic” Hungarians (as you call us, your co-patriots) as well.

    Yours faithfully, András
    (Shall I repeat all this in Hungarian?)

  3. Why should any Hungarian tolerate the unjust criticism of leftist socialists? An American diplomat in a foreign country will always speak up in favor of the president that appointed him. It is laughable that you Mr. Lazar is trying to make an issue of normal intercourse. Mr. Orban is a great Prime Minister and this is reflected by his re-elections . Why are you not honest Mr. Lazar and start all your articles “I hate Mr. Orban, I support leftist communist philosophy.

  4. Dear Andras Fodor,
    I’m afraid you have to subtract some from the 15 million Hungarians, whose opinion is equals to yours, at least me. There are a lot of important facts you have mentioned, however your political views strongly influenced your interpretation. There were a lot of issues with the SZDSZ party when they ruled in coalition and also in opposition. However they have represented the liberal democratic political agenda the best when existed. I don’t think it’s unpatriotic to win a democratic election in coalition with a social democratic party even if it’s leader is not a primary choice as a prime minister for any of us. Still, Gyula Horn was capable to jump over his own shadow and ruled in the most democratic way, Hungary experienced since 1989. Thanks to the strong control of the SZDSZ party. Even the often despised Medgyessy, later Gyurcsany administration was much more democratic than the Fidesz one ruling from 2010, especially. If you really admire our home, the United States of America you should expect from any foreign country but especially from our original homeland to follow the basic ideas of the founding fathers written in the Constitution, the free speach, the free election and the right to assemble. Unfortunately it was not the SZDSZ who’s action were and still are in strong conflict with these ideas but the now ruling Fidesz party.
    Some statement from you are not really true. Mr. Magyar’s cripto-communism is a question of opinion but it is factually not true, the SZDSZ was against the citizenship of the Hungarians living abroad. They were against the full voting right of anybody who is living outside the borders and the consequences of such decisions are not really harmful for them. Also, the citizenship and voting rights handed over many non-Hungarians, just to buy more votes, is not the best way how democratic election should work.
    Regards
    Ivan

  5. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Judging by the comments, especially Mr. Fodor’s, György Lázár’s article has struck a nerve. The practice he describes is of course widespread. Before Mr. Magyar spoke in LA, he also spoke in Montreal, at Concordia University, an event organized by the Canadian-Hungarian Democratic Charter that I chaired at the time. By then, the CHDC was well known for its effective handling of the diplomatic provocateurs who would come out in the hope of hijacking scholarly gatherings in order to mislead audiences and run interference on behalf of Orbán’s kleptocracy. Orbán’s rep at Mr. Magyar’s Montreal engagement was a pussycat. Fighting for human and civil rights requires activists who are not only fearless in speaking truth to power, but are good communicators, know what they are talking about and who they are talking to.

  6. Avatar Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS says:

    Dear Bús Károly (karl busch),

    Many thanks for your invaluable patriotic comments. But condemning the HU government because “during the past few years” they “opened several consulates at US locations to support their political agenda” was probably not a patriotic remark from you. Do you mean that you probably would prefer if these consulates would have been supporting an opposition, anti-Hungarian political agenda? This is what you would prefer? (Correct me please, if I were mistaken). Do not you think Karcsi, that this is a very special idea of you? Will you consider President John Bident to open US consulates all over the world to favor Mr. Trump? I do not think so. As for the Kőrösi-Csoma program, I am afraid you do not have the finest idea who Sándor Kőrösi Csoma was. You should not have written such an unintelligent sentence otherwise. Do you know who was Kőrösi Csoma? I do not blame you for your extremely low value of IQ, but this fact cannot authorize you for lying. The Hungarian students who are coming to the USA to learn and get friends are the FRIENDS and LOVERS of America, The Hungarian patriotism is a sister of the love of freedom and the love of the Homeland of the Freedom, that is, the USA. I am afraid that you must be a foreign agent, triying to catalize racist hatray against the Hungarian nation in America. This is the way of the fascists. Are you a fascist? Yiur way of handling Hungarians make this impression in me.

  7. Avatar Dr, FODOR ANDRÁS says:

    Dear Erdős Iván,
    .
    It is a great honor for me that you answered honestly and seriously to my letter. I appreciate that. I accept and appreciate your criticisms toward my admittedly subjective way of filtrating conclusions from opinions of copatriots whom I appreciate even if disagree. This is really my weakness. You are right: my “political views strongly influenced your interpretation.” That is true. So let me try to find sim junctions between our views concerning freedom, democracy, and patriotism, terms what t both us honor but our definitions may be different. I’m probably no mistaken when believing that our strongest junction is related to 1956. Am I right?

    You wrote that “the SZDSZ party when they ruled in a coalition and also in opposition […] represented the liberal democratic political agenda the best when existed”. It was true BEFORE but not AFTER the coalition. I almost join you before the coalition, You know a girl can be lost her virginity only once. Miss SZDSZ lost it when, instead of marrying with the patriotic conservative Democratic Party of József Antall, prostituted herself with the communists. SZDSZ then lost their best members and became an even worse communist party than the classic communists MSZP, led by the sons of the cruelest AVH officers (Pethő, Bayer) as “democrats”. Bálint was always an honest guy, this party was not really his gang. The prostituted SZDSZ lost the confidence of the Hungarian people and shamefully disappeared from the political screen. That is the truth, Iván. I know that you are not happy at reading this since you also an extremely honest guy. But this is the real story of the SZDSZ. Wake up, Iván. Hungary needs you, but you should give us misleading cheating yourself. Let me prove how you mislead yourself: “Gyula Horn was capable to jump over his own shadow and ruled in the most democratic way, Hungary experienced since 1989”. WRONG! Horn collaborated with the pro-Moscow Slovak regime and the Russians against the West when attempting to build Bős-Nagymaros. The SZDSZ was unable to stop him, but finally, Orbán did manage to win in 1998. Thanks to the strong control of the SZDSZ party. You went on as saying that “Even the often despised Medgyessy” – D-239 Russian agent -“, and later Gyurcsany administration was much more democratic than the Fidesz one ruling from 2010, especially.” Iván, this is simply not true. The SZDSZ assisted these criminals and finally lost all his voters. It was an extremely shameful story. You cannot be democratic when prostituting yourself with any kind of fascism either brown or red ones. Orbán is a strong man, but a democrat and not a dictator. Unlike Gyurcsény and his gang who are building up with the Nazi Jobbik, Orbán has a zero-tolerance of antisemitism, has an excellent friendly relation with IZRAEL, and tries to cure the incurable wounds that originated from the Holocaust. Orban IS THE FRIEND AND SINCERE ALIEN of the Hungarian Judean community, and so am I, rooting from both communities. The line from Kossuth, Batthyény, Nagy Imre, and Antall to Orbán is linear. We are ONE NATION and ONE FUTURE. Please, accept this!!!! Do you know my friend, Köves Slomo? Ask Him about Orbán and Hungary today.

  8. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Fodor András

    You must be one hell of a guy to wake up to in the morning….

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