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Hungary’s Strongman Leader Has a New American Friend: Chuck Norris

  • US actor and martial artist Chuck Norris, this year's special guest signals to the audience onstage during the opening gala of the 15th Shoe Box fundraising event in Papp Laszlo Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. The annual Christmas charity campaign was launched by the Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid) in 2004 to collect and distribute gifts donated by the public for underprivileged children during Advent. The organisation receives the labelled and boxed presents at nearly 300 designated collection points in the country. (Marton Monus/MTI via AP)



The Washington Post
Thursday, November 29, 2018

Who does Hungary’s strongman leader Viktor Orban turn to when he wants to show off his country’s elite anti-terrorism training?

Chuck Norris, that’s who.

That isn’t a joke. The American martial artist and actor recently visited Budapest, where he was greeted by Orban. The Hungarian prime minister posted the interaction to Facebook on Tuesday. In the video, Orban gives Norris a warm welcome.

“I’ve read so much about you that I feel like we’ve already met,” Norris says.

“Ninety percent of the comments on me (are) negative,” Orban later tells the American. “The liberals hate me.”

“You’re like (Donald) Trump?” Norris asks.

“A little bit more than that!” the Hungarian responds, prompting Norris to laugh.

Norris was visiting Hungary at the invitation of Hungarian Baptist Aid, a charity that runs an annual event at Christmastime. According to reports in the Hungarian media, it was his first time in the country, but he has something of a reputation there: In 2006, he became an early front-runner in an online poll to name a new bridge in Budapest.

Besides his tough-guy meme status, Norris also is a political conservative who endorsed Trump in the 2016 U.S. election and who has voiced his support for foreign leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Orban, meanwhile, is one of the European Union’s staunchest conservative figures. He’s courted controversy with moves against Hungary’s press and the European Union, and he’s found allies in figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, and a number of far-right movements across Europe.

“I’m a street fighter, basically,” the Oxford-educated Orban tells Norris at one point in his video.

In the past, U.S. administrations have kept the Hungarian leader at arm’s length — neither presidents George W. Bush nor Barack Obama invited him to the White House — but the Trump administration has taken a more forgiving stance. David Cornstein, Trump’s new ambassador to Budapest, has called for a new strategy of engagement with Orban.

In his video with Norris, the Hungarian leader takes the American tough guy to see the “toughest guys” in Hungary’s counterterrorism unit. Norris is impressed. “I’ve seen training all over the world, and this is the best demonstration — the best I’ve ever seen,” he tells Orban.