Former US president Donald Trump confused Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a campaign speech in New Hampshire on Monday, the Politico news website reported.
“There’s a man, Viktor Orbán, did anyone ever hear of him? He’s probably, like, one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. He’s the leader of Turkey,” Trump said.
Trump: I was very honored, there’s a man, Viktor Orbán. He’s the leader of Turkey pic.twitter.com/h3vrIESVrF
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 23, 2023
The former US president added that Orban has a “front” with Russia, although neither Turkey nor Hungary has a border with the country.
Trump has previously praised Orbán and hosted him at the White House in 2019. The prime minister opposes migration and LGBTQ rights and refers to his governing style as an “illiberal democracy.”
In turn, Orbán was the first European leader to endorse Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and urged him to “keep fighting” after he was hit with a criminal indictment.
“Come back, Mr. President. Make America great again and bring us peace,” Orbán told a meeting of the US Conservative Political Action Coalition earlier this year.
One of the most significant developments in the Erdoğan-Trump relationship was the letter the US president wrote to Erdoğan in 2019, in which he attempted to persuade the Turkish president to reverse a decision for a military operation against Kurdish militia forces that were US allies.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump told Erdoğan in the letter, which was released by the White House at the time.
“Let’s work out a good deal!” Trump said. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will.”
Trump had the letter released to bolster his view that he did not give Turkey the green light to invade Syria as many US lawmakers were sharply critical of his decision to remove American forces from the conflict zone at the time.
Erdoğan described the letter as “impolite” at the time, saying: “We haven’t forgotten this, and it’s not right to forget. But our mutual respect prevents us from keeping it on the agenda.”
Turkish presidential sources told media back then that President Erdoğan received the letter, rejected it and put it in the trash.