It appears the far-right polemicist whose appointment to be Hungary’s ambassador to Italy was heavily criticized last week will not be moving to Rome after all. According to a Foreign Ministry statement issued on Friday, Péter Szentmihályi Szabó has declined to take up the post. It appears he was forced to withdraw his name after his suitability for the position was called into question. The choice of the far-right journalist with no diplomatic experience (although he served for a year as a foreign ministry spokesman in the 1990s) and who speaks no Italian sparked outrage at home and abroad.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League had protested to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, calling Szentmihályi Szabó, 69, a “known anti-Semite”.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder called his nomination “clearly an affront to Jews” and urged Italy to decline his accreditation, arguing that “a man who suggests that Hungary’s Jews are … greedy, envious, evil and ugly is not fit to represent his country abroad”. Given his penchant for writing anti-Semitic polemic in far-right publications and verse that developed such poetic conceits as Jews being “agents of Satan”, it appears the Hungarian government has decided he may not be the ideal person to be Hungary’s emissary to the Eternal City.
A major editorial in the Fidesz-linked Magyar Hírlap defended Szentmihályi Szabó, claiming he was “a victim of left-liberal media hyenas and their systematic campaign of defamation” which “really was directed against Viktor Orbán and his government”. The pro-government daily’s editor-in chief István Stefka goes on to call Szentmihályi a “real European gentleman” for withdrawing his name for consideration for the highly coveted post.
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