We asked Republican senators about Tucker Carlson's favorite authoritarian leader. Their praise and dodges underscore the danger to the US.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News' host, interviews Viktor Orbn, the Hungarian Prime Minister. YouTubeThe recent visit of Carlson to Hungary has sparked concern among democracy watchdogs as well as Democratic lawmakers.Some Republican senators supported Carlson's embrace for Viktor Orbn, his authoritarian model, and others disagreed.Romney however denounced Orbn, calling him an autocrat "only a few clickings away" from Vladimir Putin.Check out more stories from Insider's business page.Recently, the host of America's most-watched cable television news program spent a week in Budapest extolling virtues of small European countries that are sliding into autocracy. This alarmingly raised concern among Democrats and democracy experts.Insider questioned nearly a dozen Republican senators to see if they support Tucker Carlson's promotion in Hungary of a right-wing populist leader. The erosion of American support for democracy is evident in their answers and nonanswers.Some Republican lawmakers portrayed Prime Minister Viktor Orbn’s government as an example for conservatives in the USA, either implicitly or explicit. Others claimed they were not well-informed enough for questions about Hungary. This has drawn widespread criticism and put the EU membership of Hungary in doubt."The only thing that I know about [Orbn] was what I heard on [Carlson’s] program," Senator Chuck Grassley, a 40-year veteran of the Senate, told Insider at Capitol Tuesday. "I was convinced that he was rational because I saw enough of his speech."Insider was told by Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty that he has not been keeping track of what's going on. Hagerty served as Trump's ambassador in Japan.Insider was told by Sen. Ted Cruz that "Call our Press Office" and also serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. Insider reached Cruz's spokespersons by email but they declined to comment.Only one Republican senator said he was familiar with Hungary's government. This was Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a Republican and close ally to former President Donald Trump. Johnson endorsed Orbn as a model for the US. Carlson's glowing portrayal about the autocrat was "pretty accurate," he said.Continue the storyJohnson stated to Insider that while Johnson acknowledged that the liberal left does not like Hungary, there are many positive aspects about what they do in that country.Carlson featured on the cover of the August 7th Hungarian weekly magazine Mandiner. Janos Kummer/Getty ImagesHungary's democratic backslideOrbn spent the last 11 years at the helm, claiming control over the judiciary and enriching his loyalists. He also eliminated the free press while reforming the laws of his country to his far-right Fidesz political party.Orbn quickly overhauled the constitution of Hungary after he won two-thirds vote in the 2010 parliament elections. Fidesz was not able to approve the revisions of the foundational laws. This raised concerns from the EU and UN, as well as critics who warned that Hungary was "slipping into authoritarianism". This was the beginning of Orbn's rule.Fidesz has since remade Hungary’s electoral system, gerrymandering the parliamentary districts and almost halving its number of seats in parliament to give it an advantage. Fidesz has won a two thirds majority in parliament every year since 2010, even though it did not always win a majority of national votes. Orbn also granted dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside of the country's borders. They vote heavily for Fidesz.Orbn's domestic policies have been particularly hostile to immigration, including the construction of a 180-mile wall along the border. He also supports LGBTQ rights in his efforts for a country with nearly 10 million people who are white, Christian and conservative. As part of his effort to "turn Hungary into the intellectual capital for the nationalist conservative movement," Dalibor Rohac (a senior fellow at conservative American Enterprise Institute) told Insider that Orbn has forced Central Europe's top university out of the country.The EU has repeatedly condemned Orbn on human rights issues, and his close ties with China and Russia have been a source for tension.Varieties of Democracy, a project that monitors democracy around the world, stated in its 2021 report that Hungary lost the status of a democracy in 2018. It was ranked among the top 10 autocratic countries.Insider was told by James Kirchick, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States of Europe, that the Orbn government had "undermined the separation of power, the independence judiciary and freedom of the press" over the past decade.'Everybody's got different views' on HungaryMultiple GOP senators refused to comment on the matter or claimed they didn't have enough information about Orbn’s leadership to form an opinion about the state of Hungarian democracy and the US right's affinities for it. Others used the opportunity to criticize American democracy.Grassley stated that he had no idea what Orbn did in Hungary, but that he had a positive opinion of Carlson's leader after seeing clips from his show. He suggested that Republicans could not be expected to seek inspiration from abroad."Have You Ever Heard of Mrs. "Have you ever heard of Mrs. He was referring to Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative British Prime Minister. "Republicans started doing a lot of things in the 1980s because of What Thatcher did in Great Britain."A senator's aide interjected to state that Grassley did not condone the actions of Orbn in Hungary. However, the senator insists that the Hungarian leader was "rational".Florida senator Rick Scott insisted that everyone has different views on Hungary's leader and pivoted to criticizing American democracy. He stated that he knew a Hungarian friend, who was considering returning to Hungary if the US continued down its path of systemic socialistism.Orbn with former President Donald Trump at the White House Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty ImagesJohnson, a Wisconsin senator, said that he believes Hungary is a model country for the US. He was then asked if Orbn's restrictions of free speech and civil society were still problematic. Johnson retorted by changing the question.He said, "I think the problem is what's happening here in this country in regards to the media censorship or the media bias."Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, is on the Foreign Relations Committee. He declined to comment on Carlson and Hungary, and instead stressed American exceptionalism.Young stated to Insider that the US model should be a model for the rest of the world. It is one in which each generation builds upon the work of the previous and leaves a better union for our children. "I have nothing to add."Why the American right finds Hungarian autocracy appealingMany observers of conservatism were not surprised by Carlson's enthusiastic embrace of Orbn, and his populist nationalist Fidesz party. Orbn is a hero to far-right groups in Europe and the USA, who have praised his efforts to create a conservative ethnic state through strict anti-immigration policies and incentives for Hungarian parents.Orbn, who has been subject to a lot of criticism over the years from US administrations is now admired by Trumpian Republicans. Many right-wing commentators and operators like Steve Bannon, the former Trump advisor, and writers at conservative outlets such as American Conservative and National Review are huge fans.Johnson said he had met with Hungarian parliamentarians "repeatly" and called them "family-oriented." Johnson said that Orbn's antiimmigration policies had demonstrated that "you can defend your borders and represent the people in your country" as opposed to the open border and chaos we are seeing.Experts in authoritarianism claim that Trump's embrace for autocratic leaders, and his attempts to reverse the results of the 2020 elections have increased the disdain for democracy.Swedish political scientist Staffan Lindberg and director of V-Dem said that accepting Orbn's politics and authoritarianism "means espousing anti-pluralism and authoritarianism."Insider was told that the GOP's suggestion to follow Fidesz or Orbn's political style is nothing but a statement that democracy is not the system in the US.Democrats have been vocal in condemning Orbn, whom President Joe Biden last January suggested was a totalitarian "thug" and they are increasingly concerned about the US right's embrace for authoritarianism."Orbn is trying model a type of repressive pseudo-democracy in which free speech virtually is nonexistent," Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said to Insider this week.He said, "There's clearly a lot sympathy in the Republican Party to authoritarianism and there are a lot more Republicans who are giving-up on democracy." "That's why January 6 was so important. ... Right now, the Republican Party is a serious threat to American democracy."Many European conservatives, as well as experts on the right, are becoming increasingly critical of Hungary's ruling party.Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at libertarian Cato Institute, and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He said that conservative support for Orbn "reflects continued deterioration in the American Right."Bandow explained to Insider that conservatives might be willing to compromise their once-strong commitments of liberty and the rule, he said. Support for family and tradition is important, but they are only secure when they are incorporated into a democratic system that is based on a liberal constitution.Carlson broadcasts live from Hungary and praises Hungary's autocratic leader. YouTubeOrbn's leadership was once more controversial than it is now. The bipartisan Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership sent Trump a letter in 2019 expressing concern about Hungary's "downward democratic trend." Republican senators were among the lawmakers. Marco Rubio and James Risch urged Trump not to hesitate in pressing Orbn about Hungary's embrace for Russia and China, and its authoritarian slide.Rohac stated that the right's criticisms of Orbn have mostly died down since then, and that "pro-Orbn as well as anti-anti Orbn voices are dominating this conversation."Rohac stated, "It wasn’t taken as a given Viktor Orbn was a friend of conservative value, of the conservative movement." "I believe those scruples are gone. It is very difficult to find anyone who would criticize Orbn among politically active Republicans.However, some GOP elected officials are still willing to speak out against Hungarian authoritarianism.Insider was told Tuesday by Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a Republican and ex-GOP presidential nominee. "Mr. Orbn can be found just a few clicks from Vladimir Putin. Autocracy is antithetical for the American experience."Insider received multiple requests for comment from Rubio and Risch, but they did not respond to our repeated inquiries.Rohac stated that Orbn's appeal was due to his success at crushing progressive culture, politics and culture.Rohac stated that Tucker Carlson, who was at the dinner with Orbn last Wednesday, said that "you are hated and loved by the right kind of people." Rohac was referring to Carlson’s comments last week about Hungarian right-wingers."It's not about policy anymore, I'm afraid. It's not about principles. It's not about having a coherent worldview that adheres to conservative principles.It's all about controlling the libs. It's about doing the right thing that the other side hates. Orbn is the man for this.Business Insider has the original article.