Politico faces backlash over false claim ‘Jews are fleeing Hungary’

By John Cody
4 Min Read

After Politico claimed that thousands of Jews are fleeing Hungary due to anti-Semitism, social media users, including Hungary’s government spokesman, began to call out the reporter responsible for false reporting.

“And this is how fake news narratives begin. A reporter makes a false claim. An outlet runs the story. Then others cite it to support their own fake news stories”, wrote Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács in a tweet.

In an article about U.S. immigration policies, Politico originally wrote that the “Jewish people are fleeing Hungary” by the “thousands” and ending up at the United States border seeking refuge.

Kovács asked Politico to provide data to support their claim but the publication never produced any evidence.

After users protested the offending passage written by freelance reporter Jack Herrera, Politico added fuel to the fire by stealth editing the piece to remove the specific section. Now, the only section of the article that alludes to anti-Semitism in Hungary reads, “Thousands of Eastern Europeans—mostly Romanians, but also some from countries such as Hungary and Ukraine—have made their way to the southern border after fleeing violence, anti-Semitism and growing authoritarianism.”

Politico also made a stealth edit removing the text and issued a correction, but one that was highly misleading, with the note at the end of the article saying, “CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurately implied that thousands of Hungarians are arriving at the southern U.S. border. It has been updated accordingly.”

The original article said, “Hungarian Jewish people fleeing persecution” but the updated correction makes no reference to the article’s initial claim about Jewish people.

The stealth edit was made after the Hungarian government requested Politico review the piece for accuracy. Politico’s removal of the section claiming thousands of Jews are fleeing Hungary over anti-Semitism seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that the passage was false. 

Deliberately biased reporting in light of existing evidence

All existing evidence appears to refute the Politico reporter’s claims. Contrary to the claim that anti-Semitism is rife in Hungary, existing data from just the past several years shows that Jews are far safer in Hungary than in many other major European countries.  A report from the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) found that Hungary actually had the lowest rate of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the EU-12 countries, and also showed that reports of anti-Semitism were far lower in Hungary than in countries like France, Germany, Belgium.

Another report by the U.S. opinion site Commentary showed that anti-Semitism is lower in East-Central Europe than in Western Europe.

Other users protested what they believed was an unfair report from Politico.

“You don’t seriously expect a journalist ever to acknowledge an error? @jherrerx probably has no idea what or where Hungary is. And likely doesn’t want to either. It would overtax his grey cells,” wrote György Schöpflin on Twitter.

The issue of anti-Semitism in New York, one of the most liberal cities in the world, was also brought up in an effort to contrast just how much safer Jews are in Hungary compared to other countries.

Hungary has a Jewish population of some 100,000 and several dozen rabbis of different denominations serving the faithful.

Hungary’s Jewish community, on a single Sunday last September, opened two new synagogues in Hungary: one in Budapest and one just north of it.

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