BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A founding member of Hungary's governing Fidesz party has been sharply criticized for writing a newspaper column that contained offensive remarks about the nation's Roma minority.
Writing about a New Year's Eve bar fight in which several people were seriously injured and some of the attackers were reportedly Roma, the journalist Zsolt Bayer said "a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals."
Bayer's commentary in Saturday's Magyar Hirlap newspaper criticized the "politically correct Western world" for advocating tolerance and understanding of Roma, who make up around 7 percent of Hungary's 10 million people and often are among its poorest and least educated citizens. Roma also are known as Gypsies.
Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics criticized the article on Monday night.
Opposition parties said authorities must decide whether Bayer should be prosecuted for incitement against a minority and urged Fidesz to expel him. If that doesn't happen, opposition groups have called for a protest on Sunday outside Fidesz headquarters.
However, Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi said at a news conference Tuesday that the party will not take a position on an opinion piece. "Zsolt Bayer wrote this article not as a politician but as a journalist, and we don't qualify the opinions of journalists," Selmeczi said.
Bayer, who also has written columns that have been criticized as anti-Semitic or racist, served as the Fidesz press chief in the early 1990s. He is one of the main organizers of the Peace March, events in support of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government that have drawn huge crowds over the past year.
On Tuesday, Bayer said in another column in Magyar Hirlap that his words in the previous one had been willfully distorted and that his intention was to "make something happen" with the Roma issue.
"I want order," Bayer wrote. "I want every honorable Gypsy to get on in life in this country and for every Gypsy unable and unfit to live in society to be cast out of society."