Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) parliamentarian Tamás Harangozó confronted Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén in parliament on Monday over his role in supporting the nomination of controversial Fidesz publicist Zsolt Bayer for the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit.
Bayer is a founding member of Fidesz and pro-government publicist known for using foul language and disparaging minority groups. His decoration in October induced scored of Hungarian notables to either return their state awards to Hungarian President János Áder or donate them to charity.
Harangozó told parliament that, despite all the obfuscation from the Prime Minister’s Office, he had finally received a straight answer regarding which government official was responsible for approving Bayer’s nomination to receive the high state award.
According to Harangozó, it was Semjén who nominated Bayer for the Knight’s Cross, despite the publicist calling at various times for people to put the pedal to the metal when running over gypsy kids with automobiles, blaming Budapest Jews for being the root cause of anti-Semitism by virtue of their existence, and accusing Pope Francis of being “either a demented old man who is completely unsuited to fill the post of Pope, or a rascal.”
Harangozó asked Semjén:“Do you believe that these are the universal human values that warrant receiving an award like this? I ask you because not only are you the Deputy Prime Minister but chairman of the Christian Democrats (KDNP) as well. You, as the chairman of the Christian Democrats, would nominate a person who has said and written such things about the Pope?”
According to Semjén, the deputy chairperson of a non-governmental organization was the one who nominated Bayer, which Semjén then endorsed because he and Bayer go way back.
“Mrs. Jolán Pintér Nagy, the deputy chairperson of the Foundation for the Remembrance of Those Who Perished in the Gulag, proposed [Bayer be awarded the Knight’s Cross for] the following reason: ‘For his emotional identifying with those held captive in Gulag prison camps, and for his authentic presentation of the lives of those who live in Transylvania’,” Semjén said. “This is precisely the text that I approved and signed. Regarding other things, Zsolt Bayer has apologized for some emotional and unfortunate statements. And personally, Zsolt Bayer sat next to me in school when he was a kid. And he will stand next to me when I am on my death bed. I will never deny Zsolt Bayer. And for you, the Socialist Party, I can only wish for you to have at least a few such people, a few publicists in your hinterland, who could even come close to the Hungarian-ness and talent of Zsolt Bayer,” Semjén continued to thunderous applause from Fidesz-KDNP MPs.
Harangozó fired back:
“I really hope that I will never have to be ashamed to sit next to a politician who has said anything like the disgraceful statements you just made. You simply cannot bestow an award in the nation’s name on any kind of hateful, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma person, or one who insults the Pope in such a manner — even if that person is your buddy. You should be ashamed of yourself. Do you know what the difference is between you and Zsolt Bayer? Apparently, it is that Zsolt Bayer apologized, but I never heard it. Let’s assume you did not lie about that. Have you apologized for proposing, in the name of the Hungarian nation, that [Bayer] be decorated? Mr Deputy Prime Minister, if you do not apologize in the next one minute, then you are the shame of this country and the shame of Christian democracy!” Harangozó said.
Semjén then accused the Hungarian Socialist Party of being traitors to the Hungarian nation.
“My proposal concerned two things: the Gulag and Hungarians living beyond the border. It is the 60th anniversary of the Gulag. For you [the Hungarian Socialist Party], as the inheritors of this issue, must have more moderate behavior and must have more empathy with those who were wound up in the Gulags because of your predecessors’ ideology. Secondly, December 5, 2004, is the day your party betrayed the nation. Zsolt Bayer stood up for Hungarians and that is why I proposed him to receive the award. For you, today, you must be ashamed and quiet because you are traitors,” said the Deputy Prime Minister, nearly shouting.