Hollywood actor George Clooney has become embroiled in a spat with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, after he criticized the Budapest government as an example of the “anger and hate” seen around the world.
In an interview with GQ published online last week, Clooney spoke about filming his upcoming sci-fi film “The Midnight Sky,” in which he plays a scientist in a post-apocalyptic world.
“We weren’t in the middle of a pandemic when it happened, but there were still all these other elements, you know, these elements of how much hate and anger we were sort of all of us experiencing at this moment in our history, all over the world. Go to [Jair] Bolsonaro in Brazil or Orbán in Hungary, or look around: lots of anger and hate,” said Clooney, who is married to human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
“If you played it out, this [film] takes place in 2049, if you played it out 30 years, this could very well be what our reality is if that kind of hate is allowed to fester.”
Orbán’s government has now hit back, Reuters reported Tuesday, calling Clooney’s comments “foolish.”
“George Clooney is a good actor so deserves respect, but … nobody should treat him like a global political oracle,” foreign affairs spokesman Tamas Menczer told pro-Orbán news channel HirTV late on Monday. “He has people whispering in his ears.”
Government spokesman Ors Farkas also accused the actor of voicing the pro-immigration message of Hungarian-born U.S. liberal philanthropist and billionaire George Soros — a regular target of Orbán’s government.
Clooney said in a statement through an agent, shared with Hungarian media outlet Telex, that “the Orbán propaganda machine is lying, full stop,” adding he had met Soros just once and would be “ashamed” if he did not speak out publicly against “authoritarianism.”
Clooney said he had visited Hungary in the early 2000s and felt that at that point, the country was a “shining example” of democratic success after the fall of the Soviet Union. “I look forward to the day that Hungary embraces what it once was.”
Orbán’s government has long butted heads with the EU over what Brussels sees as democratic backsliding in his country. He is also currently in a standoff along with his Polish counterpart against other European leaders over plans to install a mechanism that would tie EU funds in certain circumstances to rule of law principles under the bloc’s next long-term budget.