Hungary leader Viktor Orban addresses CPAC Dallas amid ‘mixed race’ blowback

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DALLAS — Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who has consolidated autocratic power with hard-right opposition to immigration and liberal democracy, will address an adoring crowd of thousands of Americans in Dallas on Thursday.

His speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has gone ahead despite Orban’s latest controversy: a speech in which he railed against Europe becoming “mixed race,” saying that Europeans did not want to live with people from outside the continent. One of his own close advisers resigned in protest, calling the speech “pure Nazi.”

But Orban has found defenders among prominent American conservatives, including former president Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance. On his way to Dallas, Orban stopped to visit Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ In a statement, Trump called Orban his “friend” from him and said he valued his perspective on him. “Few people know as much about what is going on in the world today,” Trump said.

On Wednesday, Carlson defended Orban from the negative media coverage of the speech.

“So Viktor Orban is now a Nazi because he wants national borders?” Carlson said. Carlson helped raise Orban’s US profile with a special broadcast from Budapest last year, during which he praised Orban’s Hungary as a role model for Americans.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Al Cardenas, a Republican operative who previously ran the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, and has been critical of the group since then. “In the midst of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, to invite a pro-Putin leader is inexcusable.”

Matt Schlapp, who leads the American Conservative Union, has defended Orban’s invitation in the name of free speech.

“Let’s listen to the man speak,” Schlapp told Bloomberg News. “We’ll see what he says. And if people have a disagreement with something he says, they should raise it.”

Some at the convention Thursday said they were eager to hear Orban clarify his remarks on race.

“As a person who, I am mixed race, I’m in a mixed-race relationship, I would like to see what he is going to say to that, put something positive to that,” said Raven Harrison, an unsuccessful primary candidate for Congress from outside Dallas. “I’m not willing to villainize him for that at this point.”

Orban’s appearance in Dallas comes after a CPAC spinoff hosted in Hungary in May, featuring a videotaped address from Trump in which he said he was “honored” to endorse Orban’s recent reelection.

In power since 2010, Orban has come to dominate and reshape Hungary’s political system not through a Soviet-style police state but rather through constitutional changes and the weakening of civil society. He has alienated NATO allies with opposition to punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine. Orban’s increasing isolation of him in Europe has added urgency to his long-running overtures of him to bolster relations with the United States through the Republican Party.

CPAC Hungary was a celebration of Orban’s policies, including its sidelining of mainstream media. Several of the outlets that applied to cover the conference were denied credentials. Schlapp said that he did not do much to change the coverage.

“I went out and gave a press conference and they still called me a white nationalist,” Schlapp recalled. “I was like, I don’t know if it does any good, if that’s what their editors are attempting on them writing.”

In his own speech at CPAC Hungary, Orban did not discuss race, and focused more on the celebration of national identity and traditional values ​​that excite American conservatives. The Hungarian leader called his country from him “the laboratory in which we tested the antidote to dominance by progressives,” listing twelve points for conservative success — from prioritizing economic growth to “expos[ing] your enemies’ intentions.”

That approach has clicked with American conservatives. Under Schlapp’s leadership, the American Conservative Union has organized more CPACs around the world and also invited right-wing populists to address the crowds in the United States.

A year before voters in Britain voted to leave the European Union, Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage got a high-profile CPAC speaking slot. Three years later, the crowd got to hear from Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s, a politician and niece of Marine Le Pen, standard-bearer of France’s far-right party. After the 2018 election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Schlapp’s group began holding conferences in Brazil, where politicians from the leading right-wing party discussed how to defeat a left that “denies family values.”

Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and Republican nominee for Senate in Ohio, said at a conservative academic conference last year that the “childless left” was undermining America, and he pointed to Orban’s policy of generous tax breaks for parents who have three or more children.

“Why can’t we do that here?” Vance asked. “Why can’t we actually promote family formation?”

After Orban’s party won this year’s election, One America News anchor Jack Posobiec celebrated on a podcast hosted by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. “He stands for nationalism. He stands for borders,” Posobiec told Kirk. “He stands for sovereign national identity for his people from him, and standing up for a new type of conservatism where it’s not about tax cuts to corporations; [it’s] about taking the family unit and centering it.”

Both Vance and Posobiec will speak to the conference Friday.

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