- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2022

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Dozens of prominent conservatives from Europe, the United States and elsewhere gathered in Hungary on Thursday for the American Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, being held in Europe for the first time.

The event represents a deepening of ties between the American right wing and the autocratic government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Now in power for 12 years, Orban has generated controversy in the European Union over his rolling back of democratic institutions under what he calls an “illiberal democracy,” but garnered the admiration of some segments of the American right for his tough stance on immigration and LGBTQ issues and his rejection of liberal pluralism.

Delivering the opening address of the two-day conference on Thursday, Orban called Hungary “the bastion of conservative Christian values in Europe,” and urged U.S. conservatives to defeat “the dominance of progressive liberals in public life” as he said he had done in Hungary.

“We have to take the institutions back in Washington and Brussels,” Orban said. “We must find allies in one another and coordinate the movements of our troops.”

The CPAC conference is only the latest overture of partnership between Orban’s government and the American right. On the conference website, CPAC refers to Hungary as “one of the engines of Conservative resistance to the woke revolution” which aims to “face down the onslaught of the Left.”

One American proponent of this vision of Hungary is Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who broadcast from Hungary‘s capital, Budapest, for a week in 2021, interviewing Orban and praising the country’s policies on immigration and LGBTQ issues as a model to be followed by the United States.

In his address on Thursday, Orban praised Carlson - who earlier delivered a video message to attendees - as the only figure in American media willing to stand up against “the rule of the liberal media.”

Orban urged the conservative movement to take more control over the media, as he has done in his country - albeit to much criticism from the EU and international watchdogs.

“We can only demonstrate the madness of the progressive left if we have media to help us,” Orban said.

Hungary faces financial penalties from the EU for alleged rule-of-law violations, including rolling back judicial independence and media freedom and failing to adequately tackle corruption.

The EU and human rights organizations have also expressed concern over recent policies seen as limiting the rights of LGBTQ people, something Orban on Thursday described as “gender madness.”

Yet the autocratic leader has found common cause on many of these issues with those on the American right. After taking his oath of office for a fourth consecutive term as prime minister on Monday, Orban echoed controversial theories espoused by Carlson when he described a “suicide attempt” by more liberal European governments to implement “the great European population replacement program,” which he said seeks to “replace the missing European Christian children with migrants.”

Also appearing at the conference in Budapest are numerous figures from the American right associated with the branch of the Republican party aligned with former U.S. President and Orban ally Donald Trump.

Chairman of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp and American conservative media personalities Candace Owens and Ben Ferguson were scheduled to speak at the event, as well as members of right-wing European parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France and the Spanish Vox party.

Mark Meadows, the chief of staff for the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, will also speak at the conference by video link, along with Republican lawmakers from Florida and Maryland.

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