CPAC gives Viktor Orbán, Hungary's autocratic leader, star role in Dallas Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has suppressed civil liberties and intimidated media and corporate critics, kicked off the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas.

Hungary's autocratic leader tells U.S. conservatives to join his culture war

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has drawn sharp condemnation across the globe for anti-democratic moves inside Hungary. He inspired a fresh round of condemnation last week for saying, quote, "we do not want to become peoples of mixed race." One top aide described the speech as pure Nazi text and quit. Yet this week, Orban is in the U.S., where he has been warmly embraced by former President Trump and other conservative voices. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Orban is set to give the kickoff address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Dallas.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Some sectors of the American right have fallen for Viktor Orban hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: He thinks families are more important than banks. He believes countries need borders. For saying these things out loud, Orban has been vilified.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Fox News' Tucker Carlson, who's played an outsized role in presenting Orban to the American public, broadcasting from Hungary for a full week, devoting a multi-part documentary to him and getting some love in return.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ORBAN: (Through interpreter) Only my friend Tucker Carlson places himself on the line without wavering. His new program is the most watched. What does it mean? It means that programs like his should run day and night - as you say, 24/7.

FOLKENFLIK: This from CNN's translation of a speech Orban delivered in May to the American Conservative Union's CPAC. That conference was actually held in Budapest. Carlson popped in, too, by videotape to endorse Orban's Hungary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLSON: A free and decent and beautiful country that cares about its people, their families, the physical landscape. Great place.

FOLKENFLIK: Orban met with Trump at his New Jersey estate on Tuesday and is scheduled to kick off CPAC's Dallas conference later today - same group, different location. The conference excites a certain cadre of hard-line donors and activists. Speakers in Dallas include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Fox News' Sean Hannity and conspiracy peddler Jack Posobiec. In Orban, attendees will hear from a European leader who promotes an explicitly Christian and white vision of Hungary, a leader who built up a hard border and severe policies to keep out migrants. Orban's ruling party has also ground down political opponents, bought off or starved independent voices in the press and in universities and targeted human rights groups.

ARON DEMETER: But Orban is very good at basing his whole politics on it, that he is fighting for values.

FOLKENFLIK: Aron Demeter is program director for Amnesty International in Hungary. It's among those groups Orban's party has targeted.

DEMETER: He's fighting for an old, white world or old, white Europe, where men were men and women were women. And there were no, like, transgender people or gay people. Or if there were gay people, they stayed at home.

FOLKENFLIK: The U.S.-based human rights group Freedom Watch has called Hungary a hybrid regime.

FLORA GARAMVOLGYI: That means a transition or phase between democracy and autocracy. I think that's important.

FOLKENFLIK: This is the Hungarian journalist Flora Garamvolgyi.

GARAMVOLGYI: It has been a democratic backsliding in Hungary if we're looking at press freedom, if we're looking at LGBTQ rights. And I don't think that aligns with American values whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

FOLKENFLIK: Neither Fox's Carlson nor CPAC's chairman, Matt Schlapp, responded to requests for comment. Schlapp has told Bloomberg News that people should listen to what Orban has to say in Dallas first before taking issue.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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