US ambassador accuses Hungary’s PM of using anti-LGBTQ ‘machinery of fear’

<span>Pressman was originally scheduled to give his speech at the Hungarian parliament building, but was blocked by a senior member of Orbán’s ruling party.</span><span>Photograph: Márton Mónus/Reuters</span>
Pressman was originally scheduled to give his speech at the Hungarian parliament building, but was blocked by a senior member of Orbán’s ruling party.Photograph: Márton Mónus/Reuters

The US ambassador in Budapest has accused the government of Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, of using a “machinery of fear” to launch legal and rhetorical attacks on the LGBTQ community.

“Fear is something those who seek to undermine democracy trade on, and their currency is too often you and your families,” David Pressman said at a family Pride event at the ambassador’s residence.

In 2021, Hungary adopted controversial legislation that bans the display and promotion of homosexuality in material accessible to minors. The move prompted the European Commission to refer Hungary to the EU’s top court, arguing that the law violates fundamental rights and the bloc’s values.

At the same time, some Hungarian politicians and government-controlled media outlets have been promoting narratives that experts and rights groups have described as homophobic.

In a deeply personal speech, Pressman – who is gay and raising two children with his partner – described his own experience of being stigmatised in Hungary.

“At a Pride march organised by Hungarians in Pécs last year, I walked alongside a friend, fellow ambassador, and fellow parent,” he recalled.

“The cameras of the government-controlled media were trained on me – as they are right now – and filmed us as he introduced me to his five-year-old child. The news that evening reported on ‘spotting’ my interaction with this child, and sinisterly described that I was seen ‘interacting with children’. They didn’t need to finish the sentence – they let fear do the rest,” he said.

The Hungarian government did not respond to a request for comment. On Saturday, thousands of Hungarians marched in an annual Budapest Pride parade.

The US ambassador noted that he was originally scheduled to give his speech at the Hungarian parliament building but was blocked by a senior member of Orbán’s ruling party.

“The Speaker denied the parliamentarians’ request to host an event on human rights in parliament – a space that is meant to represent all Hungarians,” he said.

Pressman drew parallels between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Hungary, and criticised Orbán’s government for its portrayal of critics.

“When a popular musician or social media influencer urges the people of Hungary to vote, they are a paedophile or a pervert. When political opposition leaders exhort citizens to support alternative policies, they are mentally unstable agents of a foreign power. When people stand with a war’s victims, they are the aggressors,” he said.

“These attacks – whether legal, rhetorical or reputational – erode the liberties of the Hungarian people, of the Hungarian soul,” Pressman said.

“Whenever politicians anywhere seek to profit by twisting love into hate; integrity into depravity; those who stand up for peace as advocating for more war – we must pay attention,” he added.

Advertisement