Tag Archives: Henrik Havas

The charge of sexual harassment used as a political tool? The Henrik Havas case

Unlike in the United States, the #metoo movement in Hungary seemed to have died a quiet death after three cases. But then, after a few weeks of hiatus, another case surfaced. The newly accused is Henrik Havas, a prominent member of the ATV staff. Havas is a controversial character whose programs apparently have a large following. I am not one of his admirers. I consider him an insufferable braggart whose veracity is at times questionable. He is a man who often talks about women in a disparaging way, which he claims is just funny. Through the years, I have come to the conclusion that he has more than an ambivalent attitude toward Gypsies and feels uneasy about his own relationship with and opinions of Jews.

Havas has published scores of books on a range of topics, like life in prison, women in the porn industry, and higher-class prostitutes. A few months ago Havas published a book about Gábor Vona, chairman of Jobbik, an initially anti-Semitic and racist party that lately has been making efforts to move closer to the center. Jobbik is the strongest opposition party facing Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz. In the last year or so it has become evident that Viktor Orbán considers Jobbik a threat, and therefore a series of base personal attacks were directed against Vona. The dirty work was done by pro-Fidesz tabloids like 888.hu, Riposzt, and lately, Origo.

Vona was apparently flattered that Havas, whose political views are a far cry from his own, was interested in him. As he put it in an interview with Magyar Nemzet, the fact that Havas chose him to be the subject of his next book “means something politically significant. He could have picked Bernadett Szél or Gergely Karácsony,” the other two candidates for the post of prime minister.

The book launch was to take place on December 6, where both Havas and Vona were to be present. The great day arrived, but in the last minute Havas canceled. The reason for his absence was an accusation of sexual molestation by Éva Baukó, a participant on a reality show, ValóVilág (Real World), aired off and on by RTL Klub. Havas justified missing the event by claiming that “the pro-government media created a political event out of a simple book launch.”

At the book launch Gábor Vona argued that this attack on Havas is really “an assault on Jobbik.” He called the accusation against Havas “political terrorism” initiated in order to spread fear. As he put it, “You want to write a book about Gábor Vona? Then we will do you in.”

Actually, there was nothing new in the accusation. In 2012 Baukó accused Havas of demanding anal sex, which she refused and quit the show. However, the blog writer who commented on the interview at the time noted that Baukó was dead drunk and incoherent and that the story was utterly unbelievable. The interview was aired on TV, but no one paid the slightest attention to it. It was this accusation that was warmed up by Ripost.hu and later by TV2, which is owned by American-Hungarian producer Andy Vajna. This time she added more details, which included Havas’s offer to pay rent on an apartment and to give her monthly financial assistance. She admitted that there was no physical molestation but said that Havas fired her from the show. After the initial article in Riposzt, all government publications picked up the story, the most active being Origo. I haven’t counted them all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been at least 30-40 articles on the Havas affair.

Two days later a former participant on the ValóVilág show and a friend of Baukó claimed that Baukó’s newly released confession was actually staged and that Baukó received money for the warmed-up story about Havas. He told the reporter that TV2 was behind the attack on Havas. At this point, neither Havas nor ATV took the charge seriously.

But on December 8 another woman, Anikó Molnár, also accused Havas of sexual harassment. Molnár was also a participant on ValóVilág. Havas wrote a book about her titled “The Star, the Loser, and Who Was Looking for Her Mother,” published in 2009. Molnár told stories from her life, which Havas retold in the book. She recalled that Havas sent her a vibrator, which Havas doesn’t deny but claims it was just a joke. Apparently, in the intervening years the relationship between the two soured and not long ago Havas called Molnár a “gold-digger.” At this point, ATV decided to suspend his programs, and management said it would pursue an “internal investigation.”

And then a third woman appeared, a much more credible source–Zita Görög, a model and actress. She and Havas were involved in a television cooking show which included a dinner scene where under the table Havas approached her in an inappropriate manner. In fact, on live TV she turned to Havas and told him “not to touch my hands and thighs! Seriously, this is humiliating.” Havas has an explanation for this scene too. Apparently, there was another female member at the table and, according to Havas, “these two women were playing roles.” The other was nice and friendly, while Zita Görög was playing the elegant lady “who occasionally was hysterical.” At this point, ATV removed all of Havas’s shows from its video archives.

Since then, Origo came up with another story about an unnamed woman business associate of Havas, and in one article Origo made not so veiled references to Havas having been an informer in the Kádár regime.

Do Havas’s troubles stem from writing a book about Gábor Vona? Perhaps. But ATV will undoubtedly find it difficult, if not impossible, not to go after Havas since they were outraged when László Marton and Gábor Kerényi, two theater directors, were found to have sexually abused women. There are, however, a lot of doubts on the left. Many people find it difficult to believe that there is no connection between Havas’s book on Gábor Vona and the accusations of sexual harassment against him. I’m sitting on the fence.

December 13, 2017

Olga Kálmán is leaving ATV for Lajos Simicska’s Hír TV

The news of Olga Kálmán’s departure from ATV and her move to Lajos Simicska’s Hír TV has spread like wildfire. This unexpected event prompted scores of negative comments on the Assembly of Faith, the fundamentalist sect that owns ATV. Columnists also bemoaned the sad state of the Hungarian media, which leaves someone like Kálmán with only two choices: either ATV or Hír TV. They reminded their readers that only a couple of years ago Hír TV was part of the Fidesz media empire. Its journalists made it their mission to hunt down all those liberals whom they considered Viktor Orbán’s enemies. Since the Simicska-Orbán fallout two years ago, however, quite a few newcomers joined the staff and its most vicious mud-slingers left. They will find a congenial home in Lőrinc Mészáros’s new acquisition, Echo TV.

It is an anomaly that a basically conservative or even right-wing sect like the Assembly of Faith keeps up a liberal television station. So the clash of cultures within the walls of ATV should have been expected. Critics claim that Sándor Németh, the leader of the Assembly of Faith, made a deal with the devil in 2012 when, they suspect, he agreed to some level of cooperation with the government in return for his sect’s “recognized” status. The Assembly of Faith is certainly the odd man out among the 26 accepted churches.

The first program that ATV scrapped was the Újságíró Klub with György Bolgár, Tamás Mészáros, and János Avar. Every Monday night the three seasoned reporters, with the assistance of a moderator, discussed the main political events of the previous week. In June 2014, after 14 years of great popularity, ATV did not renew their contracts, allegedly because of lack of interest in the program. Its replacement was a flop and died after a single season.

In May 2016 Sándor Friderikusz got the boot, ostensibly because his excellent conversations with intellectuals were deemed to be too serious for the station’s audience. Friderikusz’s liberal outlook was most likely the real reason. In October Friderikusz gave a lengthy interview to Index in which he described the state of affairs in the studios of ATV under the direction of Sándor Németh’s son, Szilárd. Friderikusz recounted a conversation in which Sándor Németh inquired from him whether he was purposely working for the downfall of Viktor Orbán.

And about a month ago we learned that András Bánó, the long-time director of ATV’s excellent news, is leaving the station. Most people doubt that his departure is voluntary. The pressure is on to get rid of certain people.

Meanwhile, there have been signs that the Assembly of Faith, under the leadership of Sándor Németh, is supporting the government’s views on the migrant issue. ATV, for example, agreed to air the government’s anti-migrant ads, which many faithful ATV viewers strenuously objected to. As we learned lately, Sándor Németh is also an admirer of Donald Trump, as you can see from the photo he posted on his Facebook page.

Sándor Németh, leader of Assembly of Faith, is a very happy man

While serious programs have disappeared one by one, a few “light” programs have been introduced. I can’t imagine that ATV’s viewers like Péter Hajdú’s Frisbee or Zsuzsa Csisztu’s Csisztus24. These programs simply don’t belong on a television station that has until now functioned as a quasi public television station. Today I took a look at both: they are dreadful.

Another “lighthearted” program is Judit Péterfi’s Magánszféra, which is supposed to let us in on politicians’ private lives. I described the program after the first episode as “an extended flirtation between the reporter and the politician, initiated primarily by Judit Péterfi.” Another new program, this one for women, seems to be superior to the other new shows–as long, that is, as one can tolerate Henrik Havas’s constant bragging.

I have no idea how these new programs are faring, but I doubt that they are hits. Friderikusz characterized Szilárd Németh’s leadership of the station as “amateurish,” and the latest changes in programming seem to justify his opinion. If Szilárd Németh, who is apparently under the thumb of his father, keeps going in this direction, ATV will soon disappear. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by next season most of the new programs are scrapped. It was time for Kálmán to leave. It’s just too bad that the only television station that it is still independent belongs to Lajos Simicska. At least this is the opinion of Kálmán’s fans.

On a brighter note, ATV announced that Egyenes beszéd will continue but Szabad szemmel (With Open Eyes) with Antónia Mészáros on Friday evenings will be discontinued. My hunch is that Mészáros, who is a fine reporter, will take over Egyenes beszéd.

The Fidesz media was shocked by the news of Kálmán’s departure for Hír TV. They immediately went into attack mode. According to Magyar Idők, “the employees of Hír TV were perplexed when they received the news that Olga Kálmán was joining their station.” It’s not just the old hands at the station who are worried about their jobs but even those who joined Hír TV in the last couple of years. Magyar Idők learned that “the leadership of ATV has been worried for some time that Hír TV wants to compete with them by espousing a political view farther to the left than ATV is at the moment.”

Origo seems to be worried about Simicska, who allegedly will be overpaying Olga Kálmán. According to Blikk and other right-wing tabloids, like Ripost and 888.hu, Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd (Straight Talk) is not at all popular. They seem to know that ATV’s “most often watched program is ATV Start, an early morning show.” Moreover, Kálmán’s presence seems to be immaterial to viewers. There was no appreciable difference in the size of viewership when in her absence someone else was before the cameras. So, concludes Origo, “the departure of Olga Kálmán is not an irreplaceable loss to ATV.”

Lokál, a free paper owned by the mysterious Árpád Habony, a right-hand man of Viktor Orbán, portrays Kálmán as a workaholic who was still in the studio four days before her son’s birth and, “as soon as she delivered, she was immediately on the phone on a work-related matter.” The impression these publications are trying to convey is that Kálmán is not only an unpopular TV personality but is also a bad mother. Simicska is wasting his money. All this sounds like sour grapes to me.

When it comes to the offerings of ATV, we must keep in mind that during the day the station airs two-and-a-half hours’ worth of infomercials in addition to the dubbed 700 Club with Pat Robertson, lasting 30 minutes twice a day. On Sundays, one has the pleasure of listening to Sándor Németh’s sermon Vidám Vasárnap (Joyful Sunday). Of course, this is also repeated later. ATV receives quite a bit of money from the Orbán government for airing a documentary series called Hazahúzó (Drawing you home), which depicts different regions of the country. These programs are supposed to be magnets for Hungarians living and working abroad. As we know, all these efforts have been singularly ineffective. This daily program is 40 minutes long and is aired twice a day. So, as you can see, there is a lot of filler here.

During the day I also took the time to check out Hír TV’s fare and found quite a few good programs, including their newscast, which was thorough and professional. At first glance it seems that Hír TV has more substantive programming than ATV. They have only 30 minutes of infomercials, they don’t have to air government propaganda for expats, and they don’t have to show such programs as the 700 Club or Németh’s sermons. On the basis of my sampling, it is definitely worth taking a look at Simicska’s station, quite independently from Olga Kálmán’s joining its staff.

December 18, 2016