Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar Defends Far-Right Hungarian Leader Viktor Orbán

Arizona Representative Paul Gosar.
Arizona Representative Paul Gosar. Gage Skidmore/Flickr
To some American politicians, Hungary's far-right leader Viktor Orbán is a strongman to be avoided and condemned.

But to Arizona Representative Paul Gosar, Orbán is a "patriot" who presides over a country that "demonstrates the values of Western civilization and democracy, sovereignty, and self-determination," according to a draft resolution Gosar recently wrote in support of Hungary and its nationalist leader.

As the newsletter InsightHungary reported after obtaining a copy of the draft, Gosar's resolution appears to be a response to bipartisan Congressional resolutions introduced earlier this year that condemned Hungary's weakening of democratic institutions and civil rights under Orbán.

Gosar plans to introduce his resolution in September, Jessica Roxburgh, a spokesperson for his office, told Phoenix New Times via email.

Roxburgh did not respond to a request to share the draft document, which InsightHungary obtained and quoted but did not publish in full.

Some of the sentences in Gosar's draft resolution, as reported by InsightHungary, have a propaganda-like ring to them.

One example: “The Government of Hungary has wisely enacted legislation to increase transparency with respect to financial support coming from abroad to nongovernmental organizations that have the purpose and intent of undermining Hungarian democracy and sovereignty.”

Gosar's resolution also elevates and defends strains of anti-immigrant, nationalist sentiment.

Hungary has the right "to defend its culture, language, and borders from pernicious and outside influences that are not organic or indigenous to Hungary," the draft declares.

It praised President Trump, who became the first president since Bill Clinton to meet with Orbán when Trump  invited him to the White House in May.

Gosar appears to have taken up the mantle of disgraced Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, who was stripped of committee assignments in January after defending white supremacy, and more recently, asked where we all would be if not for rape and incest. Before all that, King championed Orbán, retweeting the Hungarian leader's anti-immigrant rhetoric. In 2018, King lobbied the Trump administration to meet with him. 

According to the London-based news site Emerging Europe, Gosar's resolution contains factual inaccuracies, such as the claim that Orbán is "extremely anti-Putin," even though the Hungarian prime minister has met with the Russian president regularly.

click to enlarge Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. - EUROPEAN PEOPLE'S PARTY VIA FLICKR
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
According to InsightHungary, Gosar's resolution drew heavily from two memos that lobbyists for the Hungarian government have been passing around Capitol Hill in response to the Congressional resolutions.

One of those memos, "Allegations of H. RES. 400," rejects claims contained in the House resolution, introduced in May, which expressed "deep concern that the Government of Hungary has taken steps to weaken democratic institutions, and limit civil society and a free press in Hungary."

That resolution's Senate counterpart, which was introduced in January by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and awaits a vote in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the president "to vigorously defend the universal freedoms and democratic norms under attack by the Orban government in Hungary."

Past extremists whom Gosar has defended include Tommy Robinson, the British anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim protester. In 2017, Gosar also touted the conspiracy theory that the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a left-wing plot funded by billionaire George Soros.

In a statement sent in response to specific questions from New Times, Roxburgh, Gosar's spokesperson, echoed the positive claims about Hungary. "The resolution in support of Hungary reflects the solid, positive and constructive achievements by the Orban Administration," she wrote.

Tom Van Flein, Gosar's chief of staff, "advised on some aspects," Roxburgh added.

This is the same Van Flein who, earlier this year, took a Hungarian government-sponsored trip to the country, InsightHungary reported.

Under Orbán, who returned to power in 2010 after being prime minister from 1998 to 2002, Hungary has cracked down on civil society. The government has weakened public institutions like universities and taken control of others, from museums to courts to media outlets.

As The New Yorker reported in January, some political observers worried that his right-wing party, Fidesz, "has become the state."

Accompanying this intensifying authoritarianism have been gross human rights abuses, including refugees locked in cages and starved.
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Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.