CNN Deceptively Edits Audio to Pass Off Sunday Host as Hungary’s Orban

August 2nd, 2022 4:55 PM

With Reality Check host John Avlon taking John Berman’s co-host slot for this week of CNN’s New Day, there was even less of a moderating voice at the table than normal to stop S.E. Cupp from ranting about the current state of the Republican Party. Less well known was Berman's apparent influence in avoiding deceptive editing, as Avlon apparently tried to pass off audio of Sunday host Fareed Zakaria as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The segment began normally enough, with New Day co-host Brianna Keilar asking The Dispatch's Jonah Goldberg about Viktor Orban’s upcoming CPAC speech this Thursday, “because you have written some really interesting stuff about the right’s obsession with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and — uh, it is kind of a lovefest.”



Goldberg concurred, comparing the right’s fascination with Hungary to the left’s fascination with Cuba and Sweden, adding, “there's something about him that just pings the sweet tooth of the — of the sort of intellectual — um, authoritarian-curious right in America.”

Avlon then teed up Cupp to react to an audio "clip" of Orban supposedly taken from a speech he gave in Romania on July 23, where he said in English, “We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race.”

The soundbite is really bad on its face, and one of Orban’s aides resigned after the speech so odds are this isn’t a case of poor translation. 

But what makes it so odd is that the voice doesn’t sound like Orban at all. Instead, through an audio buzz, it sounds like CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. And looking back at last Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, NewsBusters discovered he ran a segment about Orban and read the quote to his audience verbatim with the New Day clip.

It's very clear to NewsBusters that the clip shown during New day on Tuesday was Zakaria’s original voice-over from Sunday with an audio buzz slapped over it to make it sound as though the recording was made in secret and leaked.

The circumstances surrounding the “clip,” as prefaced by Avlon, don’t make any sense either. Why would Orban give a speech in English when he was talking to Romanians?

Nothing about this needed to be done deceptively. Why was CNN trying to create the impression that Orban was speaking? Why didn’t Avlon say that Zakaria was reading the quote? Why was the buzz added? Why didn’t Avlon simply read the quote himself and paste the graphic on the screen? 

Avlon works with Zakaria. He knows what he sounds like, and should have said something.

Were the audio and video connected somehow? Did someone in the editing department get lazy? Is Chris Licht’s attempted pivot to the center at CNN leading to a drop in workplace morale?

This isn’t even bias, it’s being deceptive for the sake of it.

This weird case of intranetwork plagiarism was made possible by Liberty Mutual and Golden Corral. Their contact information is linked.

Click “Expand” to see the relevant transcript.

CNN’s New Day
6:56:12 AM ET

JOHN AVLON: Let's talk about Arizona, because it’s a reminder that in some ways this is much more than a factional fight within the GOP, right? Donald Trump endorsing candidates Kari Lake for Governor, Blake Masters for Senate, Secretary of State nominee. All are intense election deniers. All have been polling fairly well. 

Here's a state that's trending purple. What does that mean for the Republican Party if they elect an all election denier slate? 

JONAH GOLDBERG: It could be a disaster. Look, I mean — the way to think about the GOP these days — um, you know — but nothing too hard you that start cutting yourself or anything — but like, the way to think about the GOP these days is it's not an ideological party anymore. It's just — it’s a conglomeration of weird factions and some of the factions are bat-guano crazy. 

And — um, so you're going have a significant — not a majority, but a significant enough for primaries and for general elections to provide the — the margin of victory segment of the parties that are basically QAnon adjacent, conspiratorial, and that is going to be like a magnet to the compass for a lot of the normals because they’re going to have to pander to that to some extent. 

S.E. CUPP: Well yeah, I mean, it’s — it's a cult, right? I — I think it acts more like a cult than it does a political movement to Jonah's point. They're not loosely oriented around ideas and principles and — um, getting more voters, new voters. They've completely abandoned that cuz — cuz Trump jettisoned that, right? 

So — so now it's — it’s really about this weird fringy stuff including stuff that’s really serious, like election denial and voter suppression. I mean, Kari Lake, one candidate said it should be disqualifying if you don't agree that the election was stolen. That's bananas. 

AVLON: Orwell would like something to say about that.

BRIANNA KEILAR: Yeah, but she has her more reasonable opponent sort of being wiggly on the issue — you know, not really trying to commit one way or the other because of that. 

CUPP: Yeah.

KEILAR: Even if you want to think that her opponent is sort of maybe not where she is on the issue. 

I want to ask you because you have written some really interesting stuff about the right’s obsession with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and — uh, it is kind of a lovefest. He's going to be speaking at CPAC on Thursday. 


KEILAR: So what do people need to know about this and what are you looking for? 

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean — look, for a certain segment of the right — um, it's not the QAnon crowd. They're smart people, some of whom are dear friends of mine, Hungary which is this landlocked country of like 10 million people is for them what Cuba or Sweden were to various aspects of the left in prior generations. It’s like this imagined glorious place where everything just works the way it's supposed to and that's why we need to become more like them here. And then you actually look at how Hungary actually works and you think eh, not really. 

Um — and Orban knows — there's something about him that just pings the sweet tooth of the — of the sort of intellectual — um, authoritarian-curious right in America. And CPAC is basically an ATM machine also.

CUPP: Right.
AVLON: I — I love the Cuba parallel in terms of the fascination on the far left once upon a time. But in all seriousness — I mean, Orban just gave a speech in which sort of the — the mask fell off and — uh, one of his top aides left — we’ve got a clip of him. I want to just play that and get your reaction, S.E. 

[Start of audio clip]

FAREED ZAKARIA [on Fareed Zakaria GPS, 07/31/22]: We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race. 

[End of audio clip]

AVLON: So, that's kind of giving away part of the ghost there. Um, again, one of his top aides quit —

CUPP: Yeah.
AVLON: — because she said this —  this is just outright horrific. This is what folks at CPAC seem to be endorsing.

CUPP: Yeah. 

AVLON: This is not the Rod Dreher position on it, this is — this is something quite different. 

S.E. CUPP: Well and — look, Orban’s been in this for a long time, decades, and so this is not the first time he’s talked about this and — and made overtly racist sort of dog whistles. Um — and he’s not the first European leader to sort of rail against ideas of shangin (???) and multiculturalism. All that started with the advent of the E.U. He really is just the most direct about it. And so when someone like Tucker Carlson goes out and visits him frequently and comes back and says, Hungary looks like it's working really well, meanwhile Hungary has been recently downgraded from a democracy to a partial democracy. It's in this gray zone between democracy and autocracy. That is appealing.

And CPAC now likes to hide behind this cancel culture, and Matt Schlapp will say, well, this is free speech, and we've got to put people on that you might disagree with, except they never go ahead and disagree with them. They're very clearly elevating people like Orban, and — um — you know, instead of warning voters off of them.

AVLON: Alright. Important, insightful points, as always. S.E., Jonah, great to see you. Thank you very much.