Katrina Lantos Swett returns her Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit

Népszabadság reported this morning that Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Tom Lantos Foundation and Institute for Human Rights and Justice, returned her Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. With her gesture the number of those who expressed their disgust over the decoration of Zsolt Bayer by returning their own awards has increased to 109.

Katrina Lantos recalled that her father was the only Holocaust survivor who served in the U.S. Congress. He was a real Hungarian patriot who, despite all the tragedies he witnessed, “never lost his love for the country. For three decades he did all he could for Hungary.” She herself continued in this tradition and tried to pass the linguistic and cultural traditions of her family on to the younger generation. She was hoping to give the Knight’s Cross to her children one day and is sorry that by returning the decoration she will not have this opportunity. “The Hungarian government bestowing the Knight’s Cross to Zsolt Bayer stained this noble decoration.” She added that if her father were alive he would ask the government “to take back this unearned decoration from Bayer.” I should add that Judit Járai, the Washington correspondent for the Hungarian Telegraphic Agency (MTI), didn’t find Katrina Lantos’s announcement newsworthy.

Katrina Lantos Swett

Katrina Lantos Swett

A few words about the foundation and the institute that is being financed by the Hungarian government. Tom Lantos died suddenly in 2008, and shortly after his death it was proposed to establish a foundation and institute in his memory. But by the time the institute began to take shape there was a change of government. The new prime minister, Viktor Orbán, had had a somewhat strained relationship with Tom Lantos. The last time he asked for an interview in Washington, Lantos made him wait for three days, and at the end of the meeting there was no joint press conference. Orbán left and Lantos had a few measured words to say about their differences.

As was expected, the Tom Lantos Institute’s board was composed primarily of Fidesz faithfuls whose views were a far cry from Tom Lantos’s. For example, Maximilian Teleki of the Hungarian American Coalition based in Washington and Kinga Gál, Fidesz EP MP. The Hungarian American Coalition is a decidedly right-of-center organization that has always favored Fidesz. Just to give you an idea of their bias, here is a story in which I myself was involved. One day sometime in 2002 I read that the Coalition had paid for about 20 members of the Hungarian parliament to spend a couple of weeks in Washington to take a closer look at American democracy in action. They all turned out to be Fidesz PMs. When I asked the then president of the Coalition why they invited only Fidesz MPs, he told me that the socialists and the liberals had turned down the invitation. It was a lie, as I found out in no time from the leader of the socialist parliamentary delegation.

So, the Tom Lantos Institute has been a controversial project from the beginning, mostly because of Viktor Orbán’s insistence on making it a party foundation. After all, he must have figured, it is his government that sponsors it and therefore it is his. This is how his mind works. The fact is that the government has given a fair amount of money to the institute. The institute’s website has no detailed information about its finances. All we know is that under “Donors and partners” they list only two donors: the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. We know that in 2009 the institute received 3 billion forints from the government to cover expenses for five years.

The staff consists of nine full-time associates, of whom five are researchers. The other four deal with finances, communication, and administrative duties. Otherwise, the focal points of the institute’s activities are “Jewish life and anti-Semitism,” “Roma rights and citizenship,” and “human and minority rights.” The institute’s publications are mostly texts of lectures delivered at conferences organized by the institute.

In 2011 Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, visited Budapest specifically for the opening of the institute. At that time I received a letter from a very reliable source who called himself “Diplomat Anonymous.” He begged Clinton not to go to Budapest. I published the letter in its entirety at that time. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s especially painful to hear that you may be coming here to bless the opening of the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI). I didn’t know the late Congressman well; we only shook hands once in Washington. But I know that he fought against prejudice, he fought for human rights. Yes, to his great credit, he cared about the Hungarian ethnic minority in the neighboring countries, and the Institute may well publish books or pamphlets on that issue. But what about media freedom here? What about anti-Semitism? Will TLI address these painful issues? I predict that it will not – it cannot — because the Orbán government authored this very restrictive media law, and it doesn’t believe there’s anti-Semitism in Hungary. As for the Roma issue, which is the most agonizing social problem here, please ask an aide to check out the background of Rita Izsák, TLI’s new Director. In the Roma community, of which she’s a member, she’s known as Uncle Tom. She will respect the wishes of the government, which, after all, is TLI’s sole financial backer.

Since then Rita Izsák has left the institute. In 2013 Anna-Mária Bíró became the new director. She hails from Transylvania, where in the 1990s she was adviser to the president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania or, as it is known in Hungarian, Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség (RMDSZ), a right-of-center party. Most of the researchers are young women. Just recently the institute hired a young Hungarian program manager for Jewish life and anti-Semitism and a publications and communications officer from New Zealand. It is hard to pass any judgment on the work the institute is doing based on the scant information that is available.

But let’s return to the president of the Hungarian American Coalition, Maximilian Teleki, who was interviewed by Népszabadság in connection with Katrina Lantos’s return of the Knight’s Cross. He expressed his astonishment at the government’s decision to give a decoration to Bayer and added that “many of us supported some if not all steps of the Fidesz government. We especially approved of their announcement of ‘zero tolerance’ against anti-Semitism. Now we ask ourselves how they are able to go against their own pledge. Two steps forward and one big one backward?” Mr. Teleki, who by the way doesn’t speak Hungarian so his knowledge of the present political situation must be limited, came to the conclusion that the political views of Jobbik and Bayer are identical. Well, just for his information, Bayer is a member of Fidesz and without the blessing of Viktor Orbán he would not be able to publish the smut he does. The members of the Hungarian American Coalition should wake up and admit to themselves that, at least since 1994, they have been supporting a party and a government which no real democrat with a modicum of conscience should. Make a clean break instead of constant excuses. It doesn’t reflect well on the Hungarian American Coalition.

September 2, 2016
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Guest

Koszonom szepen to Ms. Swett for returning her award. No doubt her hard-working father would have agreed to it if he was alive. Mr. Lantos indeed would not stand a second in seeing a Magyar of the sort of Bayer getting that type of award. It would have gone against everything he believed in.

I personally would have liked to have met that very very busy man. I thought it well done that a Magyar-American became a very public representative of American democracy after his experiences. At his death I could only think that Magyars here and abroad lost an individual who understood much in East-West relations, the concept of freedom and human rights and in particular the Magyar ‘experience’. At bottom a man of integrity and deep beliefs. Orban was lucky he was only left for ‘three days’….in the Lantos ‘kutya haz’. Takes time for some to rise from the dead. Mr. Lantos was too shrewd an opponent for VO to try a ‘work-around. Point to ponder and perhaps imitate for American diplomats when in the midst of the Magyar ruling maven.

e-2016
Guest

Tom Lantos had impecable integrity.
His daughter needs some work to reach his level.
A good first step was to return her medal to orban’s Hungary.
Maybe followed by taking some distance to the mormons.

e-2016
Guest

I am adding a Newsweek link: http://www.newsweek.com/putin-persecuting-jews-tatars-and-christians-crimea-383792

The comments are superb work of liar-trolls.

The daughter of Lantos raised alarm about Russia’s oppression. The trolls called it propaganda. This is new. Kremlin propaganda soldiers try to accuse Lantos with propaganda. Funny desparation.

George
Guest

Excellent observations. Katrina Lantos Swett’ return of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit is a great first step. The Tom Lantos Foundation is controversial to say the least, I wonder about Kinga Gál, Fidesz EP MP on its Board.

In 2008 Ms. Gál inaugurated a statue of convicted WWII fascist Mr. Albert Wass in the city of Békés. She warmly praised this war criminal who murdered Romanian peasants and Jews. Having her on the Board is simply outrageous.

Member

The Two-Tailed Dog Party has struck gold again with parodying the government’s propaganda campaign against the refugees:
http://index.hu/galeria/index/belfold/2016/09/02/ketfarku_kutyapart_plakatjai/3

Guest

Thank you, shoopy!

Those parodies really “hit the nail on the head”!

Btw the German “king of screws” Billionaire, art collector and philanthrope Mr Würth just said that he thinks the refugees offer a chance to Germany – just like those Italian, Spanish, … workers did 60 years ago!
Here’s a long paper by his company – in English:
https://www.wuerth.com/web/media/en/downloads/pdf/presse/publikationen/2016/Einblick_2016_en.pdf

“Value Matters”

Member
Member

Orban/Odor Budapest/Montreal Cultural Sampler #1: Racism
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Member

Caption for above
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Member

Orban/Odor Budapest/Montreal Cultural Sampler #2: Sentimentality for Sadism in Hungarian “Culture”: Disznó Szúrás (Pig-Stabbing Feast)
(P.M. Orban is a Pig “Farmer” through the Strohman of his billions, his home-town former-gas-fitter-now-multibillionnaire Lorincz Meszaros)
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Member

60 years after the world welcomed the refugees from Hungary: “Put pig heads on border fences to deter Muslim refugees, Hungarian MEP [Schöpflin] suggests”
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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/muslim-refugees-pigs-heads-border-fences-hungarian-mep-islam-comments-a7202651.html

András B. Göllner
Guest

Of course, Katrina Lantos should be applauded – better late than never – but we should not forget, that the human and civil rights abuses sanctioned by Orbán and his party did not begin with a decoration to Bayer but as far back as 2000, and has been plain to see, by all people of conscience since 2010, The heavy handed media control, the abolition of checks and balances on the power of the State, the emasculation of the rule of law, the elimination of fair competition in politics, and business, the widespread state supported corruption, the politicization of the judiciary, and the declaration of war on liberal values has been institutionalized in Hungary for years. It’s that track record and not simply a despicable award to a racist bigot, that should fuel the opposition to the Hungarian autocrat. Mr. Teleki, the Hungarian Coalition, the Hungarian Lobby of Béla Liptak, and many others in the US Hungarian diaspora have a lot to answer for, in having supported, and still supporting Fidesz in America.

Guest
To Mr. Gollner’s remarks: For me it is ironic how I have more of a personal affinity to the Canadian view of what has been occurring in the country in the last few decades rather than those to some of my countrymen who as you noted consistently ignore the precipitous descent into what is more and more an autocracy that presents itself falsely as a democratic entity. It is rather disturbing that in one sense they seemingly adhere and believe in the notion and principles of our American ‘experiment’ in generating an environment of freedom from tyrannies but at the same time fluffle and shuffle along as they look askance of what is going on literally in VO’s country. And if there’s a wringing of the hands they hide it very well. Some set of ‘freedom fighters’. One must be surprised to see that diversion of ‘American’ political principles in the current thinking of those here looking on Magyar events when considering history. But in a way it makes sense since they would appear to be like those Fideszians who not only seek to rule but to involve themselves in defining and creating histories. They know those who create the… Read more »
Guest

And just a further comment if I may.

In our modern era, we’re a bit away from the great Magyar debacle which occurred in ’56. In a few decades historians to understand the event will only have items such as discs, papers, books, video etc . For then the actual participants will be gone. So it will be interesting to see the intersections and interpretations of that history within other histories with the country’s development.

Question is how far will the hijacking go? Arguably we see some of it already. The interpretation of histories would appear to be a pallative to reduce the pain of scars within the country. The country must be careful there. Creating fictions is a bad bad way to run a nation.

Istvan
Guest
Eva you are too kind to Maximilian Teleki. If you watch an interview Ben Novak did with Teleki last year http://budapestbeacon.com/public-policy/meet-american-hungarian-coalition-president-max-teleki/21506 , he openly admits the Coalition takes significant funding from the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation established by the Hungarian Office of the Prime Minister at the end of 2013. The Hungarian American Coalition is the largest single recipient of grants from the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation, a US-registered foundation owned by the Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary. Out of USD 3.9 million distributed to various US organizations in 2013 and 2014, USD 905,000 was awarded to the Hungarian American Coalition. As with Ben Novak’s interview with Eva, you learn a lot by watching it. For example we learn that Teleki considers himself to be a Democrat, which surprised me given that he has worked for the Danube Fund since October 20007 a private equity fund investing in Central Europe founded by Bert Walker who served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary under his cousin, former President George W. Bush and also has George Pataki as a major investor. This is about as mainstream Republican as you can get. He is also married to Wendy Jagerson Teleki who has worked for… Read more »
Guest

Not too much OT:

Amnesty International will do a campaign to correct “the government’s xenophobic campaign” and to inform people who truly want to understand what the referendum is about.

http://bbj.hu/news/amnesty-weighs-in-on-referendum-campaign_121439

Will that help against the Fidesz idiocies? I doubt it …

Bowen
Guest

Amnesty have got their work cut out, but I’m glad there is someone doing this.

Before the Brexit referendum, there was a huge amount of balanced media coverage, making sure both sides of the issues were heard, with endless discussion, panel debates, etc.

It is to Hungary’s shame that this is not the case for the October 2 referendum. Only the government’s toxic viewpoint is being heard. A few days ago, there were thick, expensive booklets in all the mailboxes, full of racist, fear mongering, urging people to vote ‘No’ on October 2nd. Full of pictures of ‘scary illegal migrants’, ‘facts’ about no-go zones across, Europe, etc.

petofi
Guest

This referendum is a dry run: a variation of this question–perhaps claiming the dangers of migrant ‘overflow’ into sacred Hungary–will be used to vote on a Hungoexit sometime down the road-

PALIKA
Guest

The idealised imaged of the Brexit referendum is misplaced. The BBC reported and discussed endlessly but the material put out by the Leave campaign was false and full of lies as the people are discovering now. The print media was biased in its manic pro brexit coverage and it certainly was not balanced. The UK Electoral Reform Society’s recent report makes it clear people feel they were told lies and not enough of the facts.
Cameron carries a heavy burden of responsibility for damaging the country’s future, especially those who are the next generations to come. He and Orban are fine bedfellows.

webber
Guest

You are right – but you left out that the Remain campaign also was full of lies, such as the dire predictions of financial collapse. There was a dramatic drop in the pound’s exchange rate, of course, but now exports are up, manufacturing is dramatically up, unemployment is down, and other indicators are not at all bad.

PALIKA
Guest
Webber, it is tempting to believe the pro brexit propaganda. The Remain predictions contemplated the consequences of leaving. The UK has not left yet. I pray it never will. The consequences are likely to be dire. We have already seen, as you point out, a 15% devaluation of sterling. We have also seen the resurrection of the loud and manic belief in the superiority of the English. The state funded success of the UK at the Olympics has not helped. In the pre EEC days UK industry struggled because it concentrated on selling shoddy goods to mostly third world countries of the defunct Empire in return for cheap agricultural produce of equally shoddy standards amongst much self congratulatory flag waving. The influence of the EU has lifted certainly London out of the pre EEC parochial gloom that is matched only by the weather. Laws that are generated by a bunch of local politicians and administered by judges who rely on them for their promotion lack the breadth of vision that the collective wisdom of the ECJ brings. This is alas to which we are about to return. I have yet to find any grain of comfort in the depressing recepie… Read more »
webber
Guest

Well, the UK is still the world’s fifth largest economy. I suppose things will work out.

I agree, English nationalism is ugly (as is Hungarian, American, etc.), but I found it very strong several years ago too. I think the Brexit vote was a symptom, not a cause.

The tell-tale sign of trouble is when people deny the very existence of something perceptible. Several years ago certain English acquaintances got very angry with me for suggesting English nationalism was getting a bit unpleasant, and told me that I couldn’t be more wrong, it doesn’t even exist. Shortly thereafter they denounced the Scots (en bloc) for separatism, and Welsh nationalism (singing in Welsh in public – the cheek!).

It reminded me very much of many people in pre-Orban Hungary (nationalism a problem??? Hungarians have been denationalized by communism, blah, blah, blah)

PALIKA
Guest

I share your concerns Webber.

The size of the economy is the measure of the Gross Domestic Product. It is not a measure of individual wealth which is glaringly greater in France or productivity: that too is higher in France.

UK has post 2008 assets inflation which is misreprented as growth. A house which is now three times the price if ten years ago is still the same pile of bricks. Who is going to pay back the accumulated debt of QE? More since June 2016.

Guest
Re: ‘nationalism as a problem’ You know as a keen watcher of Brexit I would suggest that if its dynamic is to completely unconcern itself with ‘Continental’ affairs Britain is truly ‘crusin’ for a brusin’. It would be very surprising turn for this country after what occurred in the middle of the 20th and for what is currently going on especially with the rise of nationalism in countries including Britain itself. It was interesting to read of a historian’s comment that Britain did not experience ‘defeat, invasion, occupation, civil war or dictatorship’ in the last century. And indeed the country had contributed to the destruction of the Allies’ enemies. That is why Britain’s expression of nationalism needs to be measured or it could find its parliamentary democracy in precarious positions due to far-right elements.For it would be ironic for a country such as Britain to retire and let its quiet courage and formidable resolve towards autocracies sleep and perhaps go ‘flat’ while they go off alone out in the deep. And if they think they could escape the winds that can blow through the continent they could be ‘whistlin’ Dixie’. There’s plenty of action for them to keep their eyes… Read more »
PALIKA
Guest

As they say, past performance is no guarantee of the future. The new generation of English want to turn back the clock. They think their European neighbours are inferior to them. Their laws and institutions are rubbish. Their politicians are stupid autocrats. Their food is junk. This new generation have pressed the self destruct button.
Slogans used by the Leave camp aging are embarrassing and would probably have Goebels blushing. It is scarcely credible that a pub bore like Farage gets a hearing in civilised society.
Mrs May repeating the meaningless phrases of hope etc carries nothing but desperation of a person who knows the writing is on the wall but she is powerless to change it since the patients have taken over the asylum.
I am sorry but it is desperate stuff

Guest

Palinka – I don’t usually read your crap, let alone your analysis of GB – it sticks in the craw. – mainly for being so off-beam. You clearly despise the English – just remember this is Hungarian Spectrum and keep your warped analysis to yourself.

And this from someone who backs Trump, allegedly.

And don’t even consider appealing to ‘Witness Protection’.

PNR.

PALIKA
Guest

I expect you are drunk. I do not expect you to read my posts. More to the point you would do me a kindness if you did not respond to them.

Observer
Guest

For those who don’t know Hungarian or don’t follow closely the Hun politics I will sum it up simple :

Viktor Orban, a small village boy with deep complexes and matching ambitions to compensate, ruthlessly did whatever it takes to become PM. This success became the justification for his dealing himself ever more powers and turning his regime into a quasi fascist state similar to the Mussolini one.
Special feature is the institutionalized corruption, which is total in the state sector of the economy.

In brief: you can safely assume that everything connected in any way with the Organ regime: foundations, events, business deals, publications are corrupt or somewhat, if not totally false.
Those voluntarily collaborating with the regime are either naive, duped, corrupt (less of these abroad) or of the same fascist like views .
(See Prof. Paxton’s definition of fascism)

e-2016
Guest

Hungary has such bad luck.
A leader with integrity and talent can be found only every 500 years.
The West allowed the Kremlin to weaponize the Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, Erietreans and Iranians..
The latest plot is the weaponization of Hungary, to damage the EU, NATO.

PALIKA
Guest

I have looked at Paxton. Thank you for drawing our attention to him.

It is very alarming but we know what OV is up to. How will he be stopped? He has combined what he knew as a child of the Kadar regime and what he dug out about Horthy’s fascism.

What is interesting also that those who obtained European or US education post 1989 have found themselves in high positions of state under OV. It represents a continuation of what they might have expected under Kadar. Full circle. Same job, more money, different boss and foreign travel,but also unquestioning loyalty or else no job, no travel etc, just like under comrade Kadar. Has all the trouble been worth it?

Observer
Guest

The Anatomy of Fascism by R. O. Paxton is easy to read.
I wouldn’t dare suggest The Origins of Totalitarianism , a huge work I couldn’t go through myself.

Re. “..Kadar ….full circle… has been worth it? ”

Kádár’s Hungary was the merriest barrack (in the Soviet camp), Orban’s is the saddest (on par with Bulgaria) and going down.

Anothe difference is that using the capitalist system the Orban Mafia is hard at hauling public wealth into their private domains in a historical scale.

Of course it’s worth it – the Hungarians got their freedom in 1989 for free and they carelessly let it be taken from them again. Many will learn this lesson of history.

Jean P.
Guest

“….the Orban Mafia is hard at hauling public wealth into their private domains in a historical scale.”

In plain words: Members of the government are stealing with arms and legs.

Observer
Guest

Another difference …
…on a historic scale…
Sorry .

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