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Far-right Populists Come Out of the Racist Closet

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s recent denunciation of “mixed race” countries indicates that far-right populists no longer feel they need to mask their true beliefs. After years of race-baiting through code words and winks, populist leaders have turned their dog whistles into foghorns.

MOSCOW – Viktor Orbán has said many silly and sinister things during his long tenure as Hungary’s prime minister. But his recent speech arguing that Europeans do not want to live in “mixed race” countries – and that European countries that allowed their native bloodlines to blend with other races were “no longer nations” – definitely represents a new low. In his speech, Orbán declared that Hungarians were willing to “mix” socially with others but “do not want to become a mixed race.” Instead of being ostracized for his racist demarche, Orbán gave the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the premier American right-wing meeting in Dallas.

Orbán’s speech was a moment of remarkable candor for the Hungarian prime minister who, over the past dozen years, has mostly tried to disguise his race-baiting and anti-Semitic tendencies. His comments, made during a meeting with members of the Hungarian community in Romania, were so reviled that they caused his longtime adviser Zsuzsa Hegedüs to announce her resignation after two decades by his side.

Hegedüs did not mince words when discussing Orbán’s screed. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she decried Orbán’s speech as a “pure Nazi text” that was “worthy of Goebbels.” While denouncing the European Union’s new plans to curtail natural gas imports from Russia, Orbán found a way to crack a joke about the Nazi gas chambers – “the Germans know a lot about that” – a comment that undoubtedly contributed to Hegedüs’s decision to break with him.

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