Two days ago on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” correspondent Ali Velshi sat down with everyone’s favorite Hungary-expert (and black-belt Orbanophobe), Anne Applebaum, to discuss the effects of the war in Ukraine on European democracies.
As we could expect, Applebaum jumped straight to discussing how, according to her, Prime Minister Orbán stands reluctant to include energy sector measures in the EU sanctions package adopted against Russia, because of, wait for it, his “relationship” with Vladimir Putin. Regarding the Russian aggression’s potential effects on democracies in the region and the spread of authoritarianism, Applebaum said that Hungary must be less worried about it, as, in her view, PM Orbán has been building an autocratic regime over the past decade.
How could this commentator say that with a straight face? Perhaps two possibilities.
According to Scenario A, Ms. Applebaum simply doesn’t know her facts. This would of course imply that she hasn’t read, or listened to, a single one of PM Orbán’s statements in the last three weeks since the war started. Had she read even just one of them, she would know that roughly 85 percent of Hungary’s natural gas supply comes from Russia, and 90 percent of Hungarian households heat their homes with natural gas.
Any sanctions that include the energy sector, as Prime Minister Orbán has said countless times, could jeopardize Hungary’s natural gas supply and carry immediate, negative implications for the everyday lives of Hungarian families. In PM Orbán’s words: “We will not let Hungarian families bear the price of the war.”
If Applebaum doesn’t know her facts, that’s a serious professional error (especially from someone who presents touts herself as an expert on the region), but she wouldn’t be the only one.
In Scenario B, Ms. Applebaum is aware of the facts but chose to deliberately ignore them to drum up anti-Hungary sentiment in mainstream, international media. In this case, besides a serious professional error, Applebaum would have also committed grave violations of the fundamental moral and ethical code of journalism and expert opinion.
Let’s hope, for her sake, that it was the former and not the latter.
This chapter of MSNBC’s unhinged, biased coverage of Hungary, however, wasn’t the first such example in the last few weeks.
On March 12, in his live reporting from the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, the same reporter, Ali Velshi, called the Hungarian government “racist” and “far-right,” apparently stating that refugees were solely being welcomed by civil society organizations, religious groups and non-governmental organizations.
Szabolcs Takács, Hungary’s ambassador in Washington, D.C., penned a letter to MSNBC President Rashida Jones, in which he categorically rejected these “derogatory and misleading allegations.”
“Making politically motivated statements instead of providing accurate reporting, is not journalism but it is a direct interference in the Hungarian election campaign. I was glad to hear in recent days the appreciation of Ms. Samantha Power, administrator of USAID, as well as of Mr. George Pataki, former governor of New York, with respect to the efforts of the Hungarian government to help those in need. Their experience is in stark contrast with the reporting of Mr. Velshi,” Ambassador Takács wrote.
Last night, the number of refugees who have fled to Hungary surpassed 450,000, making Hungary the second-largest host country after Poland. Following a visit to the border yesterday evening, Prime Minister Orbán confirmed that “coordination is working well,” and that Hungary is “able to accommodate and care for a larger number of refugees than at present in a coordinated way.”
In addition, the Hungarian government has launched one of its largest humanitarian aid operations ever, providing USD 13.6 million to six charities (the Catholic Charity, the Hungarian Reformed Charity, the Hungarian Maltese Charity, the Hungarian Interchurch Aid, the Baptist Charity and the Hungarian Red Cross). Instead of establishing parallel structures, the Hungarian government is working closely together with these highly experienced charities to address the humanitarian crisis.
The Hungarian government has also set up a humanitarian aid program called "Bridge for Transcarpathia." So far, USD 1.5 million has been pledged under this program.
Dear editors at MSNBC, it’s time to get your facts straight before engaging in more of this politically motivated nonsense about Hungary and the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian lives are being lost and ruined — and the Hungarian government, Orbán’s government, has been and will continue to be there to help.