André Goodfriend’s tenure as the US embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission is to come to a premature end. The embassy’s press office informed state news agency MTI on Wednesday that Goodfriend intends to return to the United States in the near future “for family reasons.”
Goodfriend served as the embassy’s Acting Chief of Mission from August 2013 until the arrival of Ambassador Colleen Bell in January 2014. Prior to that he served at the US Embassy in Damascus until the embassy suspended operations in February 2012.
The professional diplomat, whose earlier postings included London, Tel Aviv, New Dehli and Moscow, became a household name in Hungary in 2014 when news emerged that the US State Department had issued a travel ban barring six Hungarian officials and businessmen with close ties to government from entering the United States.
Although Goodfriend refused to release the names of the affected individuals, by her own admission the list included Hungarian Tax and Customs Adminsitration head Ildikó Vida, who, at Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s insistence, sued Goodfriend for allegedly disparaging her reputation by failing to volunteer to pro-government weekly Heti Valasz that she is not corrupt. At roughly the same time the Attorney General’s Office also took the unprecedented step of charging Goodfriend with defamation which, due to changes to the penal code under the second Orbán government, is a felony carrying a jail sentence of up to three years. The United States, however, refused to lift Goodfriend’s diplomatic immunity.
Goodfriend personally took part as an observer in numerous demonstrations and civil society forums, and his skills as an adept Twitter user often attracted media attention from the Hungarian press.
He will certainly go down as one of the most energetic and outspoken American diplomats to have ever served in Hungary.