Hungary’s government spars with George Clooney after actor’s criticism of Orban

George Clooney speaks at a news conference during an event about corruption in Africa, in London, Britain

Hungary’s government has hit back at actor George Clooney for describing Prime Minister Viktor Orban as an example of anger and hate in the world who could fuel a dystopian future, calling his remarks “foolish”.

Speaking about the making of his film Midnight Sky, in which he plays a scientist in a post-apocalyptic world, Clooney told GQ magazine: “We weren’t in the middle of a pandemic when it happened, but there were still all these other elements, these elements of how much hate and anger all of us are experiencing in this moment of history, all over the world – go to Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Orban in Hungary.”

The actor continued: “Look around. Lots of anger and hate. (My new film) takes place in 2049. If you played it out this could very well be what our reality is if that kind of hate is allowed to fester.”

Orban, who has been in power for more than a decade, has built a self-styled illiberal regime, with a centralised state, a loyal business elite and an ever more nationalistic government ideology.

Criticised for years by European Union peers for eroding the rule of law and civil liberties in Hungary, Orban and his Polish allies are fighting against new EU rules enforcing democratic standards.

Asked by state television to comment on Clooney’s remarks, government spokesman Ors Farkas said the actor voiced the pro-immigration message of Hungarian-born U.S. liberal billionaire George Soros, a promoter of open societies and a long-time Orban opponent.

Clooney’s words were “foolish,” foreign affairs spokesman Tamas Menczer wrote on Facebook.

“George Clooney is a good actor so deserves respect, but… nobody should treat him like a global political oracle,” Menczer told pro-Orban news channel HirTV late on Monday. “He has people whispering in his ears.”

Reuters could not reach Clooney for comment.

Through an agent, the actor released a statement to Hungarian news website late on Monday saying “the Orban propaganda machine is lying, full stop,” adding he had met George Soros only once.

“I would be ashamed if I were not on record for speaking out against the kind of authoritarianism (typical of) the Orban regime,” Clooney said in the statement.

“I was (in Hungary) in the early 2000’s and walked the boardwalk of the Danube. At that point Hungary was a shining example of democratic success… I look forward to the day that Hungary embraces what it once was.”

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