President Donald Trump welcomed far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the White House Monday, drawing outrage from progressive quarters.
"By meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán today," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), "Donald Trump is giving tacit approval for his racist, misogynist, 'soft fascism.'"
Orbán, as the New York Times reported, "was, in July 2016, the first foreign leader to endorse Mr. Trump's candidacy for the presidency," and is "a doyen of right-wing nationalists on multiple continents."
He's also "rolled back democratic checks on his power, mused about creating a European ethnostate, and erected a razor-wire fence to keep migrants out,"as CNN noted.
The visit—Orbán's first to the White House in over 20 years—is in line with Trump's "preference for meeting with authoritarian leaders over Washington's traditional Western allies," as Agence France-Presse noted.
This afternoon, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary to the Oval Office. pic.twitter.com/OgdONwKRB6— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 13, 2019
Sitting next to Orbán, Trump said the Hungarian leader "has done a tremendous job in so many different ways" and is "respected all over Europe." Recent polling, however, shows Hungary's image within Europe is tanking.
"Probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that's okay," said Trump.
Orbán, for his part, said, "I would like to express that we are proud to stand together with United States on fighting against illegal migration, on terrorism, and to protect and help Christian communities all around the world."
Among those criticizing the chummy visit was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "The job of the President of the United States should be to stand up for democratic values, not embrace leaders who reject them."
Victor Orban is undermining democracy in Hungary, just as Donald Trump is in the United States. The job of the President of the United States should be to stand up for democratic values, not embrace leaders who reject them. https://t.co/9wWxwrBkOP— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 13, 2019
A group of Democratic lawmakers last week called on Trump to cancel the visit.
In a letter to the president, led by Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), co-chair of the Congressional Hungarian Caucus, the lawmakers pointed to Orban's "rollback of democracy in his country," and "anti-Semitic and xenophobic tropes in his political messaging," as well as his suppression of "independent media and academic freedom in an effort to consolidate his increasingly autocratic rule."
Other social media users criticized the visit as well:
Trump practicing effective talking point messaging with Viktor Orbán. Any person who still calls themselves a member of the GOP needs to condemn today's meeting ASAP or they're outing themselves as an enemy of American Jewry. pic.twitter.com/V5MZAgnO2h— Eli Valley (@elivalley) May 13, 2019
By meeting w/ Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban today, Donald Trump is giving tacit approval for his racist, misogynist, “soft fascism.” America needs a President who challenges authoritarians, not one who welcomes them to the White House for a how-to.https://t.co/JZA11Du8OU— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) May 13, 2019
Orbán is an anti-Semitic, racist demagogue and an authoritarian who is systematically destroying the remnants of democracy in Hungary. No wonder Trump likes him. https://t.co/qFkWRHH6dn— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) May 13, 2019
Today Trump met with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, as part of his campaign to embrace authoritarian leaders worldwide. Orban has systematically weakened his country’s democracy, cracked down on free speech and stoked anti-Semitism and racism. https://t.co/WvglxV8iTv— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) May 13, 2019
It's truly revolting how Trump and GOP leaders feel so comfortable weaponizing false accusations of anti-Semitism against Democrats on the same day they're honoring Orbán, who advances the kind of anti-Semitic, xenophobic conspiracy theories that fuel deadly attacks against Jews— Dylan Williams (@dylanotes) May 13, 2019