BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Bill Clinton's comments about Hungary and Poland wanting "authoritarian dictatorship" are offensive, unacceptable and unfair, officials from the two Eastern European countries said Tuesday.
Speaking last week at a rally in New Jersey in support of wife Hillary's U.S. presidential campaign, Bill Clinton said Hungary and Poland "would not be free" if not for the United States.
The two countries "have now decided this democracy is too much trouble," Clinton said. "They want (Russian President Vladimir) Putin-like leadership. Just give me an authoritarian dictatorship and keep the foreigners out."
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been criticized before by the Clintons for perceived authoritarianism, while Poland has a new right-wing government that the European Union says is eroding democracy and the rule of law.
"No one, not even Bill Clinton, can allow himself to offend the Hungarian people in this way," Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, noting that the Hungarian government was chosen in a democratic election. "Bill Clinton may not like the decision of the Hungarian people, but this is no reason for the former American president to offend them."
Poland also rejected Clinton's remarks, but tried to put them into context.
"The opinion of President Bill Clinton is unfair," said Rafal Sobczak, head of the Poland Foreign Ministry spokesman's office. "We understand, however, that it was voiced in the context of the internal electoral campaign in the U.S."
"We would like to stress, however, that this is not the official position of the American administration," Sobczak said in an email to The Associated Press.
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.