Hungary – The television host and political commentator who has hosted the nightly political talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News since 2016 spent a week in Hungary. On 6 August, 2021, he made a 20 minutes long interview with Hungarian conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Here is the video and the transcription of the interview:
Tucker Carlson: Mister Prime Minister, thank you very much. So in 2015 hundreds of thousands of migrants appear on your southern border, they appear all over Europe, they stream into Germany, the rest of the EU says, “Welcome, please come, we can handle it, we’re strong enough”. Hungary stands alone and says no. Why? Why did you take a different position on migration from other European countries?
Viktor Orbán: That was the only reasonable behaviour. If somebody without getting any permission on behalf of the Hungarian state crosses your border, you have to defend your country and to say “Guys, stop!” And if you would like to cross or you would like to come, there’s a legal procedure, we have to do it. But you can’t cross, you know, without any kind of limitation and permission and any contribution and control of the Hungarian state. It’s dangerous. You have to defend your people against any danger.
Tucker Carlson: And you think you have the right to do that?
Viktor Orbán: Of course. It’s coming from God, the nature, so all arguments [are] with us. Because this is our country. This is our population, this is our history, this is our language. So we have to do that. Of course, if you are in trouble, and there is nobody closer to you than the Hungarians, you have to be helpful. But can’t say simply, that “okay, it’s a nice country, I would like to come here and live here, because it’s a nicer life”. It is not a human right to come here. No way, because it’s our land. It’s a nation, it’s a community, families, history, tradition, language.
Tucker Carlson: Saying what you just said – which I think will seem obvious to a lot of our viewers – was very offensive to a lot of countries in Western Europe, to their leaders.
Viktor Orbán: Because many European countries decided to open a new chapter of their own history of the nation. They call it new society which is a post-Christian, post-national society. They believe firmly that if different communities, even huge number of let’s say Muslim communities and the original inhabitant let’s say Christian communities, are mixed up, the outcome of this will be good. There is no answer whether it will be good or bad, but I think it’s very risky, and the chance that it will be not good, but it will be very bad is obvious. And each nation has the right to take this risk or to reject this risk. We, Hungarians, decided not to take that risk to mix up our society. That’s the reason why they attack Hungary so harsh, and that’s the reason why my personal reputation is very bad. You know, I’m treated like the black sheep of the European Union personally, and sometimes Hungary as well unfortunately.
Tucker Carlson: So it has been six years since Germany, since Angela Merkel made the decision to let many hundreds of thousands of migrants into her country.
Viktor Orbán: Millions.
Tucker Carlson: Millions. Non-German speakers, mostly Muslim. What have the effects been in Germany?
Viktor Orbán: You know, diplomacy requires some well-behaviour. But it was their decision, they took the risk and now they got what they deserve. That’s their life. I would not like to make any categories to describe what was the outcome of their decision. I only insist on that the Hungarians have the right to make our own choice.
Tucker Carlson: You first speaking famous in the late 80’s as a student, as one of the leaders against Soviet occupation of Hungary, and you were a hero to many in the United States, and at the time during Cold War they paid close attention to Hungary. I think the US government was on your side, you were on the side of the US government. So thirty years later, Joe Biden while running for president last year on ABC News described you, suggested that you were, and I’m quoting “an authoritarian thug”.
Joe Biden (video cut): “You see what’s happening from Belarus through Poland and Hungary and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world and as well this president is embracing all the thugs in the world”
Is that bewildering for you to see the change and how do you respond to that characterization?
Viktor Orbán: So first of all the reaction of that kind of opinion here in Hungary is always not very polite but we say: “Who is that guy to say that”? Then we say: “Okay, he is the President of the United States, we should take it seriously”. But anyway. Somebody who does not speak our language, has a very limited knowledge on Hungary – even in the recent several decades of our life, don’t understanding us obviously, having an opinion like that, you know, by itself it is a personal insult for all the Hungarians. But because he is the President of the United States, we have to be very modest. We have to be very respectful and we have to make a lot of things to clarify that what he is doing is rather a fake. We try to do that in a polite way, because we respect the Americans. We respect the American democracy, American culture – so, we would not like to destroy our relationship. Because the bilateral relationship with the Americans is basically very good. We are cooperating well on the, on the field of defense, as NATO allies; economic cooperation is excellent, they are a big investor here, trade is going very well. Your businessman is finding a lot of possibilities here, so everything is fine. Except the politics, when the liberals are in government in Washington. That is the problem, so we have to manage that, because the American-Hungarian good relationship is value. Even if the Americans don’t perceive today it as it was previously – so we have to save what we can save out of it.
Tucker Carlson: But it is a little strange – I don’t think Joe Biden has ever referred to Xi Jinping for example – who has murdered many of his political opponents famously – as a totalitarian thug. Why would…he said… and not just you by the way, the Polish government as well.
Viktor Orbán: The problem is the success. So it is a real challenge for the liberal thinkers, that what is going on in Central-Europe – Poland and in Hungary as well, in Hungary more outspoken probably – we are speaking probably too much anyway on our intentions. So, so what is going on here is building up a society, which is very successful. Economically, politically, culturally, even in demography we have some success, family policy – so, what you can see here could be described as a success story. But the fundamentals of this success is totally different, than it is wished and run and created by many other Western countries. So the Western liberals cannot accept that inside the Western civilization, there is a conservative national alternative, which is more successful at the everyday life at the level of, than the liberal ones. That’s the reason why they criticize us. They are fighting for themselves, not against us. But we are an example, that somebody, or a country, which is based on traditional values, on national identity, based on tradition of Christianity could be successful, or sometimes even more successful, than a leftist-liberal government.
Tucker Carlson: It’s interesting as an American to see this, so the American media, the Biden administration, the State Department, are opposed to you, because they say that you are a “totalitarian thug”, but your opponents are a coalition of former Communists and anti-Semites. Is it strange to see the American Left rooting for a coalition that includes anti-Semites?
Viktor Orbán: Let’s say, if you would have asked me several years ago, whether it could happen, that ex-Communist political forces and the anti-Semite Right is forming a coalition that is running together in the election against a pro-Israeli and pro-American, pro-NATO, Western-oriented government, as we are, my answer would have been no, it’s impossible. But now the international communities accept it. I understand that here in Hungary the political parties would like to get to power as soon as they can, therefore they try to make a broad coalition against the ruling government, but to be accepted by the international community so easily – I’m surprised. I’m surprised… Especially the behaviour of America is a totally new experience for me.
Tucker Carlson: It does seem like Hungary is moving in a completely different direction from the rest of the continent, from the rest of the Western world. I mean do you think that in twenty years from now that will be an unbridgeable divide? I mean where does that lead?
Viktor Orbán: Let’s describe how I see it. What I see that in the Central European countries, the countries suffered the most because of the Soviet occupation and Communist dictatorship. So in these countries my approach or the Hungarian approach is very popular. Probably we have a majority in all of that societies. Not only in Poland and Hungary, they are more moderate I mean, the others are more moderate, but if you understand what they are doing, what are the fundamentals and their motivations is basically belonging to the same political family anyway. On the Western society there is a lot of people – millions and millions of people – who disagree the direction of the policy taken at this moment. Which is against the family, or not respecting the families, which is more based on migration. Which is more open society. Which is more welfare and so on. So I don’t say that the political competition is over in the Western European societies. So I see chances and the key country is Italy at this moment, where the fight and the competition is very open. So I can see chances in the Western countries also that they are able to change their policy from liberal to conservative, or from liberal leftist to Christian democrats, the chance is there, but we are not internationally well-organized. So the forthcoming years are really exciting.
Tucker Carlson: I’ve noticed in the last few night in Budapest, I ran in to number of Americans who have come here because they want to be around people who agree with them, who agree with you. Do you see Budapest as a kind of capital of this kind of thinking?
Viktor Orbán: The capital of that kind of thinking or one of the capitals because other European countries are also very competitive and producing very nice ideas, and organizing that kind of communities of Conservative and Christian Democrat thinkers as we do. We cooperate with those countries, and these kind of networks are getting closer to each other. It’s getting a real, more and more real Central European network. But not only thinkers. Ordinary citizens, average citizens are moving to Central European countries. It’s not too dynamic at this moment, but the signs are that here. Many Christian families and Conservative families think that Western Europe is not secure enough. The future is unstable. Public security is not provided. And the ideological direction of the countries, the basic values of the countries they are based on is changing not to their taste, not to their intention. They are looking for other places. So if you go to the Hungarian countryside you can find Western European families who moved to Hungary. First to have a second house, because inside the European Union we have free movement. So, first to have a second house, then they are spending more and more time here. So we can’t exclude the future of the European history when there will be a new migration from the West to the East.
Tucker Carlson: Within Europe?
Viktor Orbán: The Christians and Conservatives try to find a better home. We can’t exclude that.
Tucker Carlson: So up until very recently Hungary – which is a small nation of 10 million people – had two big nuclear-armed allies, the United States and Israel. You were probably Netanyahu’s closest ally in Europe, you were close to Donald Trump. Both of them are gone. Where does that leave you?
Viktor Orbán: We are not very much fortunate in recent years, because Donald Trump was a great friend of Hungary, he was very much supportive to us, not just personally but politically also, so there was a good friendship. Between the two countries also. And, you know, “first America” – “America first”. It is a very positive message here in Central Europe. Because it means for Donald Trump “America first” – for us, Hungary could be first as well. Let’s cooperate on that basis! So that was a very good foreign policy, very effective, and we cooperated very well. The same with Bibi Netanjahu, who was a good friend of Hungarians. When he was in power, he always invested a lot of energy to have a good relation with Central European countries. We were respected very much. But he lost also. So the Hungarian Conservative-Christian – Judeo-Christian – Democratic thinking has lost two major international supporters. And the opponents came into power. This is a totally new circumstance around Hungary. For me as a politician, it’s a strong challenge, how to handle it.
Tucker Carlson: You have got an election coming up in April. Are you worried that there will be international interference in your election in Hungary?
Viktor Orbán: That will happen, yes. We are not worried, we are prepared for that. Obviously, the international Left will do everything what they can do – probably even more – to change the government here in Hungary. We are aware of that, and we are prepared for that – how to take the fight and fight back.
Tucker Carlson: When the president of the United States describes you as a “totalitarian thug”, it is a very serious thing to say about somebody, I would note. That suggests that why wouldn’t the Biden State Department work to prevent you from being re-elected?
Viktor Orbán: I think sooner or later the Americans will realize that issues in Hungary must be decided by Hungarians. And it’s better even for the leftist, liberal government in the United States to have a good partner, which is a Conservative, Christian-Democratic [government], supported long-term by the people, the Hungarian people, it is better to have that, than a government which is supported by America, which takes the position then loses after several months, creating destabilization and uncertainty. So, a not loved but stable partner is better than an uncertain new one. I hope the Americans will understand that.
Transcription provided by the International Communications Office of the Hungarian government.