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Tucker Carlson did PR for Hungary's authoritarian leader, presenting the country as 'freer' than the US

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Tucker Carlson discussing Viktor Orban.
Tucker Carlson is broadcasting from Hungary and praising the country's autocratic leader. YouTube
  • Tucker Carlson gave Hungary's authoritarian leader a platform to spread his xenophobic views.

  • Carlson presented Hungary as "freer" than the United States.

  • Carlson did not mention how Orbán has shored up control of the country's elections, media, and courts.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday whitewashed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's autocratic record, presenting the authoritarian leader's approach to politics as a model for the United States.

Carlson, who is broadcasting from Hungary all week, accused the US media of lying about Orbán and his repressive, anti-democratic policies. And he presented the US as less free than the Central European country as he attacked a democracy watchdog that's raised alarm about the erosion of democratic institutions in Hungary.

"Who's freer?" Carlson said. "If you're an American, the answer is painful to admit."

"Freedom House, an NGO in Washington funded almost exclusively by the U.S. government, describes the country as less free than South Africa, with fewer civil liberties. That's not just wrong. It's insane," Carlson said, making no mention of the ways in which Orbán has rigged Hungary's political system to favor his party or how he's packed the nation's courts with allies while shoring up control of the media ecosystem.

It's also not just Freedom House that has raised concerns about Orbán. Numerous human rights organizations, democracy watchdogs, political scientists, and historians have underscored the myriad ways Orbán has tightened his grip over Hungary's political system while maintaining the veneer of democracy.

Reporters Without Borders in July, for example, pointed to Orbán as one of the world's 37 "press freedom predators."

In an interview with Insider last year, Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College and author of "Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe," said, "At this point, Hungary is a full-on dictatorship. No if, ands, or buts."

Orbán is unabashedly xenophobic and bigoted, instituting policies against migrants and the LGBTQ community that have been condemned worldwide.

"The government used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext for attacks on the rule of law and democratic institutions," Human Rights Watch said of Hungary. "The government has made access to asylum close to impossible, interferes with independent media and academic freedom, and undermines the rights of women and LGBT people, including blocking the implementation of the Istanbul Convention that aims to prevent violence against women."

But Carlson, who has espoused white supremacist conspiracy theories on his show and routinely attacks immigrants, effectively did what amounted to PR for Orbán. The Fox News host presented the Hungarian leader as a pro-family leader who protects his country's borders, without mentioning how the European Union's supreme court - the European Court of Justice - in the past year ruled that Orbán's government has been illegally deporting refugees to Serbia.

Orbán's border policies are driven by ethnonationalism, and he's made no secret of this. "We do not want to be diverse," Orbán said in a 2018 speech, adding, "We do not want our own color, traditions, and national culture to be mixed with those of others."

In the interview that aired Thursday, Carlson gave the Hungarian leader a platform to promote this worldview and bash his Western critics.

"You have to defend your country," Orbán said. "This is our country. This is our population. This is our history. This is our language."

"It is not a human right to come here. No way. It's our land. It's a nation, a community, family, history, tradition, language," Orbán added.

The Hungarian leader said that he is criticized by "Western liberals" because they can't accept that there's "a conservative national alternative which is more successful at everyday life."

Carlson did not push back.

Fox News did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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