It’s old news that the media has tried to use the January 6 hearings to tar the entire Republican Party as fascist insurrectionists. What is new is CNN airing a segment on Tuesday evening’s Erin Burnett OutFront trying to link the riot to a broader worldwide “attack on democracy” by authoritarians of all stripes. Their evidence? Conservative Hungarian PM Viktor Orban being invited to speak at CPAC.
To make the argument they were making clear, Burnett framed the segment by playing clips from that afternoon’s January 6 Committee hearing, “making it clear that democracy itself is under attack,” and playing a clip of former Proud Boys member Jason van Tatenhove saying, “I do fear for this next election cycle because who knows what that might bring.”
Burnett then let CNN Washington correspondent Sunlen Serfaty narrate the rest of the clip. With a headline trumpeting “As Jan 6 Panel Warns of Threat to Democracy, GOP Embraces Autocrat,” she described Orban as “an icon on the right” and someone “attracting the adoration of some of the Republican Party's top right-wing voices,” concluding with Steve Bannon telling his listeners to his podcast The War Room that Orban was the Hungarian equivalent of the America First movement.
Calling Orban an “authoritarian nationalist and socially conservative leader,” Serfaty then listed all of the ways Orban had earned this moniker: “He has restricted LGBTQ rights, taken a hard line on immigration, promoted government control of the press, and pushed the white nationalist “Great Replacement” theory, pushing his country further right.”
Sprinkled throughout were clips of Orban saying things such as, “We have scored a victory so big, that it can be seen even from the moon, but definitely from Brussels,” “Liberal thinking in Europe now became the archenemy of freedom,” and “We can only show the insanity of the progressive left if there is media helping us.”
Serfaty noted that the Conservative Political Action Conference hosted its first European conference in Hungary this May, “where Orban outlined a 12-point plan for how other leaders could emulate his approach.”
To demonstrate Orban’s popularity on the right (and therefore the danger he poses), Serfaty pointed out that Fox’s Tucker Carlson hosted his show from Hungary for a few days, calling it, “a small country with a lot of lessons for the rest of us.”
With footage from the Capitol riot playing, Serfaty concluded, “As the country today is again reminded of the threat of growing right-wing extremism with the latest January 6 hearing, Democrats see warning signs for America,” before finally noting that Viktor Orban is slated to speak at CPAC’s upcoming conference in Dallas.
The message is clear: the same radicals who tried to overthrow the government on January 6 are allying with autocrats worldwide in an attempt to destroy the democratic order and suppress the will of the people.
Viktor Orban is certainly a social conservative, and Hungary did recently pass a law forbidding LGBT content in children’s entertainment and education, a cardinal sin by leftist standards.
None of the soundbites CNN played of Orban were particularly damning or surprising: calling for media to support your political view is not unique to either the left or right, but I guess not wholeheartedly supporting the EU is enough to earn the “authoritarian” label these days.
On the contrary, CNN admitted that Orban had “won a fourth term in office in April,” so his policies — unless CNN thinks Hungarian elections are rigged (which would be really ironic given the story’s framing) — seem to be supported by at least a plurality of Hungarians.
And while it is true that many conservatives admire Orban’s policies, it is also true that Hungary is not the United States. The two countries have vastly different histories and governmental systems, and — as any liberal HR assistant would tell you — working together with people of differing backgrounds and beliefs is necessary to achieve common goals.
The beauty of conservatism as a philosophy is its ability to express timeless truths in a way consistent with a nation’s history and perennial values, but if you listened to the way CNN portrayed Orban, you would think he was the next Saddam Hussein.
Click “Expand” to see the relevant transcript.
CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
7:49:45 PM ET
ERIN BURNETT: Tonight, witnesses in the January 6 Committee hearing making it clear that democracy itself is under attack.
[Cuts to clip]
JASON VAN TATENHOVE [former Oath Keepers Spokesperson, January 6 Committee hearing, 7/12/22]: I do fear for this next election cycle because who knows what that might bring, if — if a president that's willing to try to instill and — and — and — encourage, to whip up a civil war amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil. And regardless of the — the human impact, what else is he going to do if he gets elected again? All bets are off at that point.
[End of clip]
BURNETT: That warning from a former Oath Keeper comes as Republicans have invited the leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban, to speak at CPAC, which is the most important conservative meeting of the year in the U.S.
Sunlen Serfaty is OutFront with the right's embrace of a leader who has been chipping away at the foundations of democracy in Hungary.
[Cuts to video]
DONALD TRUMP [During meeting at the White House with Orban]: Respected all over Europe. Uh— probably like me, a little bit controversial.
SUNLEN SERFATY: Viktor Orban has become an icon on the right.
TRUMP [At CPAC Hungary, 5/19-22/22]: He really is a good man and he's done a fantastic job for his country.
SERFATY: Attracting the adoration of some of the Republican Party's top right-wing voices.
STEVE BANNON [On War Room]: What Orban represents at one level [Transition] that is the MAGA America First movement here.
SERFATY: The authoritarian nationalist and socially conservative leader won a fourth term in office in April.
VIKTOR ORBAN (via translator): We have scored a victory so big, that it can be seen even from the moon, but definitely from Brussels.
SERFATY: He has restricted LGBTQ rights, taken a hard line on immigration, promoted government control of the press, and pushed the white nationalist “Great Replacement” theory pushing his country further right.
ORBAN (via translator) [On ATV]: Liberal thinking in Europe now became the archenemy of freedom. Liberals are the enemy of freedom in Europe.
SERFATY: While crusading against Western liberal values.
ORBAN (via translator) [From Orban’s Facebook page]: We should have our own media. We can only show the insanity of the progressive left if there is media helping us.
SERFATY: Often speaking directly to and attempting to influence Republicans in the United States.
In May, Republicans hosted another CPAC conference in Hungary, an unprecedented move. The first time the gathering had been hosted in Europe.
ORBAN (via translator) [At CPAC Hungary, 5/19/22]: The first point in the Hungarian formula is to play by our own rules.
SERFATY: And it was there where Orban outlined a 12-point plan for how other leaders could emulate his approach.
ORBAN (via translator) [At CPAC Hungary, 5/19/22]: The second point, national conservatism in domestic politics.
SERFATY: His ideology is resonating in some far-right circles. Fox's Tucker Carlson even hosted his show from Budapest for multiple days last August.
TUCKER CARLSON [On Tucker Carlson Tonight, 8/4/21]: Hungary, a small country with a lot of lessons for the rest of us.
SERFATY: Holding up Orban's playbook as a model for the future of the Republican Party.
CARLSON [At CPAC Hungary, 5/19-22/22]: What a wonderful country. [Transition] The people who have turned our country into a much less good place are hysterical when you point it out. The last thing they want is any kind of signpost to a better way.
SERFATY: As the country today is again reminded of the threat of growing right-wing extremism with the latest January 6 hearing, Democrats see warning signs for America.
CHUCK SCHUMER [At press conference]: To praise Orban, that shows you where this Republican Party is headed under MAGA Republican domination.
[End of video]
SERFATY (on camera): And Orban will be traveling to Dallas for the CPAC Conference which will be held the first week in August and also it features a who's-who of right-wing voices in the party like former President Trump, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, and Sean Hannity, Erin, among others.
BURNETT: Sunlen, thank you very much. Certainly, a fascinating, fascinating place and person.