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Hungary's prime minister calls for culture war at right-wing conference in Dallas

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Dallas, a conservative political convention is bringing together Republican lawmakers, Fox News media personalities and conspiracy theorists. Today's keynote speaker was Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, who said people at the CPAC convention were the victims of false portrayals by Democrats and liberals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ORBAN: They hate me and slander me and my country as they hate you and slander you.

SHAPIRO: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us from Dallas. Hi, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Every year, CPAC brings together conservative superstars and lesser-known personalities. What have you seen there this year?

FOLKENFLIK: And sometimes more than once a year, as they've done this year. CPAC is, you know, this constellation of folks - pundits, politicians, sometimes people peddling conspiracies, sometimes people peddling goods. You have on the speaker list folks like Ted Cruz, the popular Texas senator - at least popular down here. You got Fox News' Sean Hannity, conspiracist Jack Posobiec among the speakers as well as former President Donald Trump supposed to speak here on Saturday. And, of course, then you had Viktor Orban, someone who was made a star among this crowd of sort of the right wing of the Republican Party in large part thanks to Tucker Carlson - all part of an effort to activate people, get them excited, enthused, passions flaring ahead of Republican elections later this year.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's talk about what Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, said today. We heard a little bit of his speech there. What else did he tell the crowd?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, his speech today in Dallas reminded me of a talk I covered back during the 1992 Republican presidential primaries. Pat Buchanan, you know, in North Carolina gave this speech about a Christian nation under attack. Similarly, Ortoban today gave what was a full-throated call for a culture war by Christian Europeans against enemies he identified as a globalist ruling class. And let's think who he's lumping in there - liberals, university scholars, non-governmental organizations - who's that? - folks like Amnesty that monitor human rights abuses, the Hungarian-born liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros - and those modifiers are relevant to some extent in this conversation - and, of course, the media.

And he also talked about zero migration. That got huge, you know, standing ovations for folks here in this border state - the idea that nobody should come through the border if they don't have legal grounds to do so. He presented that as a battle for the future of his country. He wanted more marriages and stronger police protection - as he put it, less drag queens, more Chuck Norris. In short, he was delivering red meat to an audience hungry for it.

SHAPIRO: How does that message compare to the way that he has governed Hungary?

FOLKENFLIK: I would say it's pretty consistent. You know, he just won. He's popular in many ways. He's just won his fourth straight election as prime minister of this small Central European country. And he's done that in part because of his policies, but he's also done it in ways that have targeted certain kinds of populations there. What do I mean? Well, in addition to restricting migration, he's found ways to single out LGBTQ people because he wants families to be represented with one father, one mother. He's done this by either buying off or intimidating independent voices in the press there. He's done that by trying to smother these outside organizations that can be a check on what he's done. You know, Freedom House has described elections there as being free but not fair. And he's done it in times with certain kinds of racist rhetoric. Last week he was widely condemned for saying, we do not want the races to mix in Hungary. Here's how he seemingly addressed that in his talk today.

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ORBAN: Don't worry. A Christian politician cannot be racist. So we should never hesitate to heavily challenge our opponents on these issues. Be sure Christian values protect us from going too far.

FOLKENFLIK: So what you're hearing there is the idea that because he's Christian, he can't be racist. A lot of people inside and outside of Hungary would say different. But what he said to them - he said to these global ruling elites, they can go to hell. I've come to Texas. He got a standing ovation from these Republicans, these very conservative Republicans, for that.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's David Folkenflik covering the CPAC convention in Dallas. Thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.