Hungary teaches Tucker Carlson a lesson

Anyone who watches Fox News entertainer Tucker Carlson’s shows recognizes that the popular right-wing television host is a frequent and vociferous critic of China. Mr. Carlson refers regularly to Covid-19 as the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus,” mostly as a type of verbal nod to his viewers who are irritated with political correctness. Mr. Carlson cultivates a “tell it like it is” image. And that’s exactly what he tried to do during his peculiar visit in Hungary this month. The purpose of this working vacation was to gush about the regime of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and place the East Central European country with a population of 9.7 million at the heart of a struggle between a brave, but deeply maligned populist movement and on the opposing side the globalist forces seeking to censor anyone who does not follow a contrived politically correct line. In an awkward turn of events for Mr. Carlson, this time it was the celebrated Orbán regime that censored him during his Hungarian trip.

It was the youthful American-Hungarian journalist Benjamin Novak–based in Budapest and always watching the country’s political affairs with a keen eye–who noticed that Hungarian government officials deleted Mr. Carlson’s disparaging remarks about Chinese dictator Xi Jinping from the transcript sent to reporters of the interview he conducted with Prime Minister Orbán. Mr. Carlson labelled Xi Jinping a ‘totalitarian thug’ who ‘murdered many of his political opponents.’ Mr. Carlson’s point was that American President Joe Biden seems to take a tougher line against the Hungarian prime minister than against the Chinese leader. Mr. Orbán responded by arguing that the “liberal West” does not know how to handle the “success story” that is Hungary under his rule, as well as the success of illiberal Poland.

“The western liberals cannot accept that inside the western civilization there is a conservative national alternative, which is more successful at every day life than the liberal one,” remarked Mr. Orbán.

The conservative national alternative then proceeded to censor Mr. Carlson’s reference to the Chinese communist dictator as a murderous thug.

Tucker Carlson listens intently to Mr. Orbán.

Later, Lili Bayer — another young American-Hungarian journalist of Hungarian origins based in Europe — reported that after the deletion was noticed, Hungarian officials sent out a revised transcript with the original disparaging comments restored to it. There’s a possibility that an overly eager Hungarian civil servant deleted the original reference to China in order to please his or her superiors. That sort of conduct would be in line with the profoundly servile mentality within the Hungarian civil service. But it does highlight how much Viktor Orbán’s Hungary is out of step with American conservative thought on the question of communist China, which “Christian conservative” Hungary sees as an important partner.

Since coming to power in 2010, Mr. Orbán has sought to cultivate a closer relationship with China than any prior Hungarian prime minister since the fall of communism in 1989. Even before assuming power, in 2009 Fidesz formally explored the possibility of developing official bilateral relations at the party level with the Communist Party of China and the subject was raised during Mr. Orbán’s visit to Beijing in December 2009. One of Prime Minister Orbán’s first overseas visits in 2010 was to Shanghai, where he met with the Chinese prime minister. Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Hungary occurred in 2011, becoming the first Chinese head of government to visit the country. Mr. Orbán travelled to China again in 2014, 2015 and 2017. China has also become critically important from a business and investment perspective. In 2011, the Chinese company Wanhua bought out Hungary’s BorsodChem, a chemical industrial processing plant with a history stretching back to 1949. Most recently, and a source of major protest in Budapest, we learned that China’s Fudan University is opening a campus in the Hungarian capital at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion. The vast majority of these expenses ($1.5 billion) are being financed through a loan from a Chinese bank — a liability for Hungary to shoulder. Some two-thirds of Hungarians are opposed to the project and the associated expense that exceeds the total amount that Hungary allocated for public higher education in 2019. In protest, Budapest’s left-centre municipal government re-named a handful of streets and public places in the capital in honour of victims of Chinese communism.

Mr. Carlson’s week-long trip to Budapest was like when a sell-out journalist from the west visits a dictatorship and says: “Well, but look at all this lovely architecture — isn’t this nation and city just amazing? How could those in power possibly be evil when there is such beauty to behold here?”

In reality, the Carlson trip was shameful and cringeworthy for everyone involved. Mr. Carlson was slavish and Hungary behaved like a quintessentially small and pathetic country seeking to raise its profile by capturing the attention of a foreign celebrity.


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