Washington, DC – This week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson is broadcasting his daily primetime show from Hungary, where we’ve seen significant democratic backsliding in recent years under the rule of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Carlson is no stranger to giving Orban airtime and the agenda of this trip is quite evident: he seeks to encourage his viewers and followers to view Hungary’s illiberal, corrupt regime as a potential alternative to America’s democratic system.
Carlson’s agenda only highlights the extreme ideological contrast between Orban’s values and the democratic ideals we hold dear in the United States. While we don’t usually comment on the antics of the likes of Carlson, we feel it is important to highlight these differences, and urge Americans to stay vigilant against the anti-democratic vision that Orban, and now Carlson, stand for.
Orban has used every tool in the authoritarian toolbox to maintain and strengthen his power. He has used his anti-immigrant rhetoric as the backbone to his Christian nationalist agenda, fueling xenophobia and Islamophobia in Hungary. In 2015, he built a fence to keep out migrants causing the number of migrants seeking asylum in Hungary to plummet from 177,000 in 2015 to 29,000 in 2016. The hate doesn’t stop there – there is a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the parliament recently passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that forbids educators from showing students content that portrays LGBTQ+ people. Orban also regularly spouts antisemitic rhetoric, particularly against famed Hungarian American philanthropist, George Soros.
Through this Christian nationalist rhetoric, Orban has gained popularity in rural parts of the country and has used that mandate to pass a new national constitution, centralize power around the prime minister’s office, and target media and civil society groups that oppose his policies. Orban’s Fidesz party, which is in an alliance with the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KNDP), has gerrymandered elections to give Fidesz an advantage in future votes. Orban has lowered the age of retirement for judges to 62 in order to purge nearly 10% of the judiciary and replace them with party loyalists. He has consolidated state media and encouraged state cronies to purchase and control private media; by 2017, 90% of media was owned by the state or a Fidesz ally. According to the Pegasus Project reporting initiative, Orban’s government appears to be using some of the world’s most invasive spyware to target independent journalists, lawyers, and opposition politicians. In 2020, Freedom House downgraded Hungary in its annual survey from Free to Partly Free.
It should go without saying that all of this is in stark contrast to the values and traditions that have underpinned American democracy since the country’s founding. It’s concerning that Carlson is so quick to dismiss fundamental rights and freedoms embraced by Americans, including freedom of speech and religion, the right to vote in free and fair elections, a governing system of checks and balances, robust civil society free from government harassment, and an independent judiciary and press.
“It’s easy to laugh at Tucker Carlson for devoting himself to an authoritarian ruler like Viktor Orban, but we should all be concerned about what he’s trying to do here,” said FP4A Executive Director Andrew Albertson. “Embracing a fascist like Orban is a stunning departure from our shared democratic values. Republican and Democratic political leaders should join together in condemning Carlson and rejecting completely Viktor Orban’s vision for our future.”