Right-wing activists from the U.S. and Europe gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference this week in Budapest, where Hungary’s authoritarian ruler Viktor Orbán on Thursday advised them to assert control of mass media in order to defeat progressive forces.
The call from Prime Minister Orbán—reelected last month for a fourth consecutive term—came during a keynote address on the first of the two-day CPAC gathering, held for the first time in Europe.
U.S. media and international outlets were denied accreditation to attend to the event.
In his remarks, Orbán called both former GOP President Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson—whose Fox News news show repeatedly pushes racist rhetoric including the so-called “replacement theory”—his friends.
Outlining a path for Republicans to seize further power, the Hungarian leader blasted what he asserted was “the domination of public life by progressive liberals” who “occupy the dominant positions in the media.”
He also called for foreign policy to be rooted in “a clear and simple antithesis to the progressives: the Nation First! Hungary First! America First! We need foreign policy based on our interests.”
It’s also necessary, he said, to “have our own media.”
“The root of the problem is that the modern Western media aligns itself with the views of the left,” he asserted. Orbán suggested multiple corporate media outlets were “in the service of the Democratic Party,” naming CNN and The New York Times.
“Naturally,” he said, “the Grand Old Party, too, has allied media outlets, but they are no match for the liberals’ dominance of the media. My friend Tucker Carlson stands alone and immovable. His show has the highest audience figures. What does this mean? It means that there should be shows like his day and night—or, as you say, 24/7.”
Other recommendations Orbán offered were for the GOP to create more ideologically driven institutions like “think tanks, educational centers,” for “If they run out, we will run out of ammunition.”
“The progressives are threatening the whole of Western civilization,” he said.
“We must take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels” and “coordinate the movement of our troops, because we face a great challenge,” said Orbán, calling 2024 a “decisive year” because of national elections in the U.S. as well as for the European Parliament.
Orbán has come under sharp criticism from human rights defenders on a number of issues, from anti-migrant screeds and policies to attempts to “muzzle” critical voices and trample on LGBTQ rights.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Orbán is also “a press freedom predator” who “has built a media empire whose outlets follow his party’s orders.”
“Orbán has unceasingly attacked media pluralism and independence,” the group said.
RSF has noted that Hungary “is the only European Union member suspected of having arbitrarily monitored journalists using Pegasus software. In addition, in the context of official smear campaigns, journalists critical of the government are harassed online by ruling party supporters.”
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