Ambassador Cornstein, in an accidental meeting with CNN, praised Viktor Orbán and said that he is ” the perfect partner to have a dance with here.”
The news team bumped into the ambassador in a restaurant in the Hungarian capital. While the Embassy previously declined interviews, after his dinner, Cornstein went over to talk with the journalists.
“My view of this country first of all, I think it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. It’s a beautiful city,” Cornstein said about Budapest. “It’s really a great place and my biggest complaint, and I tell Orbán, I tell everybody in the country: you’ve got to get your good news out. You are always on the defensive.”
In connection with his relationship with the Hungarian Prime Minister, the journalists spoke of the Embassy’s July 4th celebration, which included a visit from Paul Anka. Cornstein, speaking of the “deepening relationship” between the two countries, said about that night that “something like this can only happen if you have a very, very strong and good leader. And we have a saying in the United States that when you have a dance, you need two to tango, and I think we have found the perfect partner to have this dance with here.” Something like this, would have been unthinkable under the Obama administration, the portal notes.
Cornstein was also instrumental in arranging the Trump-Orbán meeting this year at the White House, where Trump offered Orbán “a warm welcome.”
CNN also reported that Cornstein rebuffed rumors of address corruption and rule of law controversies in Hungary. They also mentioned the case of CEU, the university founded by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, that was forced out of Hungary, citing CEU president and rector Michael Ignatieff. According to him, there had been a sense that the ambassador was “unwilling or unable” to push Orbán (and help the American university stay in Hungary).
While CNN cites criticism of Cornstein for having gone over the heads of career diplomats and actively courting “Hungary’s far-right prime minister,” he remains unshakable: “I report to one person, the President of the United States, and if I have something to say, I’ll say it … Otherwise, I am supposed to be running the show here and that’s what I’m doing. Nobody has said to me, ‘I don’t like the result of what you’re doing.'”
featured image: illustration (Cornstein and Orbán at the July 4th celebration this year); via MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák