Skip to main content

Orban buttoning suit: Photo: “Viktor Orbán,” by Annika Haas (EU2017EE) licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Hue modified from the original.

Cabrera-Cuadrado, C., & Chrobak, J. (2023). Illiberalism and the Deinstitutionalization of Public Diplomacy: The Rise of Hungary and Viktor Orbán in American Conservative Media. Communication & Society36(2), 311-324.


The promotion of Hungary and Viktor Orbán among American conservatives is often presented as a warning of conservative embrace of illiberal politics. While acknowledging the draw of Hungary’s illiberal policies as the motivating factor for American conservative interest in Hungary, our focus seeks to answer to what extent this embrace of Hungary can be considered a form of public diplomacy. We examined the frequency and substance of mentions of Hungary and Viktor Orbán in 1643 articles within 13 American conservative media outlets to track how the narrative around the country and the prime minister has evolved over the past four years, bearing in mind the impact of Tucker Carlson’s interview with Viktor Orbán in late 2021. We found both an increase in the quantity of articles focused on Hungary and Viktor Orbán as well as a largely positive trend defending and praising the policies of Hungary and the prime minister. We also observed a strong focus on Orbán as the primary actor of Hungarian public diplomacy and argue that this hyper-presidentialized focus exemplifies the deinstitutionalization of public diplomacy, along with other elements that contribute to the enhancement of Orbán as an individual public diplomacy actor.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.