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Pro-Government Media In Eastern Europe Promote Claims Of Stolen U.S. Election


President Trump has soured on Fox News since it called the election for Joe Biden. Well, Trump might find right-wing media outlets in Eastern Europe more to his liking. They are echoing his baseless claims of a rigged election and, as Joanna Kakissis reports, adapting them to advance their own political agenda.


JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: This is Hungary's PestiTV, where the anchors wear T-shirts that read, in English - liberals suck.


ZSOLT JESZENSZKY: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: PestiTV's creative director Zsolt Jeszenszky - a wisecracking, silver-haired former music executive. He hosts a talk show called "Political Hobbyist."


JESZENSZKY: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: On air last month, Jeszenszky echoed President Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. He repeats those claims for NPR.

JESZENSZKY: Ballots being found out of thin air for Joe Biden, ballots being found days later for Donald Trump which were not included in the ballot count.

KAKISSIS: U.S. courts have resoundingly rejected all these allegations as Trump lawyers have failed to provide any evidence. Even Trump's attorney general can't back up the president's claims, yet Jeszenszky Yessentuki says he still believes them. On his show he compares the U.S. election to a 1947 vote in Hungary rigged by communists.


JESZENSZKY: It's an obvious and blatant battle, not just for power, but for what direction world policies should take.

KAKISSIS: He says Trump should not concede.


JESZENSZKY: If there's a system that is against you, you have to fight. And you should not submit.

KAKISSIS: Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who was one of the only EU leaders to endorse Trump, has congratulated Joe Biden. Still...

PETER KREKO: The Orban government cannot expect a very rosy relationship with the new American administration.

KAKISSIS: Hungarian political analyst Peter Kreko says this is why pro-Orban media are trying to discredit Biden, who has slammed Hungary and Poland for undermining democracy.

KREKO: Populist right voters will be convinced that Joe Biden was elected in a fraudulent election. So it's like, who is the United States to lecture us about democracy? You know, the Hungarian government, they want to translate it to the language of the domestic politics.

KAKISSIS: In pro-government media, that language almost always includes one name - George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist often demonized by Trump supporters for his funding of liberal causes.


UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: Orban has made Soros a reviled figure in Hungary. And pro-Orban media are now calling Biden a Soros puppet. In those broadcasts, Soros, the European Union and now Biden represent a threat to the Hungarian government's nationalist agenda, as Parliament Speaker Laszlo Kover told state-run radio last month...


LASZLO KOVER: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: ...Liberals are waging a war against nationalists.


KOVER: (Through interpreter) Those of us who do not belong to the homogenized, left wing, liberal, communist, neo-Marxist hogwash coalition that wants to inflict moral terror on Europe.

KAKISSIS: Donald Trump has left an electoral playbook for Eastern European nationalists facing challenges.

JOANNA HOSA: The message is that democracies, even the best ones, are not so reliable.

KAKISSIS: That's Joanna Hosa of the European Council on Foreign Relations. She worries the nationalists running Poland could use voter fraud conspiracies in the next election.

HOSA: Where the liberal side might win, and the party now in power - any results that are not in their favor, they might want to take it to court, the courts that they now control.

KAKISSIS: In Hungary, Viktor Orban has a firm grip on power but could face a challenge in parliamentary elections in 2022. Pro-government media in Hungary are already charging, without evidence, that the Biden administration could interfere. Like Trump, they are sowing doubts long before the vote happens.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
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