Over the weekend, the Christian Broadcasting Network ran a softball-lobbing interview with Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Foreign Minister, in which CBN interviewer Dale Hurd sympathized with the government of Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán in what the two portrayed as its mistreatment by the European Union and the Western media.
Like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Orbán has been showered with praise by U.S. Religious Right leaders and the World Congress of Families for his defense of “traditional” values in spite of—or in some cases because of—his power-consolidating attacks on media, civil society, and constitutional checks and balances.
In September, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to sanction Hungary for anti-democratic behavior; according to the Telegraph (London, U.K.), Orbán himself is accused of “fostering anti-semitism and undermining universities, the free media and Europe’s liberal values.” Orbán has responded by defiantly defending his country’s illiberal and anti-immigrant populist nationalism.
Religious Right leaders have praised the Orbán government’s refusal to accept immigrants from Muslim countries, which the government has portrayed as a defense of Hungary’s, and Europe’s Christian heritage. CBN’s Dale Hurd said that the “fiercely independent” Orbán government is being “treated like a pariah in the Western media over its position on open borders.” (Hungary has refused to accept its quote of asylum-seekers as required by the E.U.) But, said Hurd, “Hungary’s leaders are smart enough to know that their national values will never please the global Left.”
Szijjártó declared that Hungary is “fed up with the politically correct and hypocritical approach of the European Union” on immigration. “We will never give up our right to make a decision with whom we would like to live together in our country,” he said. “We will never give up our right to stick to our culture and heritage. We have been a Christian country for a millennium. Why should we give it up? Who is the one who can judge, overjudge, the Hungarian history and the will of the Hungarian people?”
Szijjártó said Hungary wants a strong EU but one based on strong member states, not something like the United States of Europe or “a post-national, post-Christian” Europe he said that some seek.
“The nihilism, the valueless approach which is there, is simply unacceptable for us,” he said. “If Europe is not going to find the way back to the Christian roots and the Christian heritage, then Europe will not be strong again.”
Szijjártó is certainly well-versed in the talking points shared by right-wing activists in the U.S. and Europe – he decried civil society groups associated with philanthropist George Soros (which have been forced out of Hungary) as well as the “liberal” and “mainstream media,” and President Obama’s “Democrat administration.” He boasted that the country restricts marriage in its constitution to a man and a woman.
When Hurd offered, “The western media makes it appear that you’re building a dictatorship,” Szijjártó responded that “the mainstream media hates what we are doing,” comparing Orbán’s treatment to way the media opposed Trump during his presidential campaign.
When Hurd suggested, “You must feel like you have an ally in President Trump,” Szijjártó agreed, saying, “I think democracy has won when President Trump turned out to be the winner.” Now, he said, the two countries are in clear agreement on issues like border protection, immigration, and “preserving the Christian values.”
“You know, we had this debate in Europe: whether multiculturalism is by definition better than a homogeneous country,” Szijjártó said. “And Hungarians had a very clear say on that. We want to keep Hungary as a Hungarian country. We want to keep Hungary as a Christian country, according to the roots and heritage.”