Did the Czech President invite an anti-Semitic extremist to Prague Castle?
Adam B. Bartoš, a political commentator known for his anti-Semitic, extremist opinions, seems to have been one of the official guests invited to yesterday's ceremony awarding state honors at Prague Castle. The Office of the Czech President has not yet issued a formal statement regarding the circumstances of his attendance.
While Czech President Miloš Zeman did not invite most of the country's former prime ministers, and also failed to invite two university rectors who have criticized him in the past, Bartoš seems to have received an invitation. Photographs taken at the event by Vít Hassan, a reporter for the "Prague Bulletin" (Pražský zpravodaj) news server, documented his attendance.
"I saw him at the entrance to the First Courtyard of Prague Castle, where they admit only exclusively invited guests. Journalists are not permitted to pass through that entrance," Hassan told news server E15.cz, adding that Bartoš went to the ceremony accompanied by a reporter from the tabloid news server Parlamentní listy, Lukáš Petřík.
Hassan went on to say that Bartoš was permitted to enter without difficulty while the identities of other guests were thoroughly vetted before they were allowed in. Bartoš, however, claims he only attended the reception.
"Unlike previous years, I was not officially invited, but I was there, just as a journalist," he explained. Hassan, however, rejects that explanation.
"Mr Bartoš is lying. The ushers at the main entrance told me journalists are not permitted through that entrance," Hassan said.
Hana Burianová, the president's spokesperson, says Bartoš was not on the list of invited guests. "If he was present, whether in the Vladislavsky Hall or the Spanish Hall, it would only have been because he was accompanying an invited guest," she said, noting that each invitation admitted two persons.
Bartoš provided "aid" to Zeman's recent presidential campaign, as the president's team frequent made use of information from the commentator's pieces. This included, for example, allegations that there were pictures on display of Nazi swastikas and people giving the Nazi salute in the mansion where Therese, the wife of presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg, was living.
It was later proven, however, that the mansion in question has not been in her family for almost 300 years. Zeman first blamed his staff for the error before apologizing to his opponent.
According to news server Česká pozice, the following is a direct quote from a text by Bartoš on the website freeglobe.parlamentnilisty.cz: "[Schwarzenberg] intentionally kept it quiet that his parents were surrounded by Nazis and that in the family mansion where his wife Therese was living there were pictures on display of Nazi swastikas and people giving the Nazi salute." Zeman also cited another article by Bartoš about Schwarzenberg's alleged connections to František Mrázek, a controversial businessman often referred to as the "Godfather of Czech Organized Crime" who was shot dead in 2006.
Bartoš is currently a reporter with news server Prvnispravy.cz and worked until 2009 for news server iDNES.cz, after which he began to create his own blog to promote his racist, xenophobic opinions. He is also a signatory to the D.O.S.T. initiative launched by another controversial figure in Czech politics, Ladislav Bátora.
Bartoš makes no secret of his right-wing extremist opinions and has posted photographs of himself on his blog holding a copy of Henry Ford's book The International Jew. He is also very close to former Czech President Václav Klaus, who reprints texts by Bartoš on his own website, Klaus.cz.
Klaus called a publication by Bartoš entitled "The List of Truth-Lovers" (Seznam pravdoláskařů) a "gifted text" [Translator's Note: The term pravdoláskař is a derogatory reference to supporters of former Czech President Havel]. Clergyman Tomáš Halík, on the other hand, has compared the list to the Nazis' "List of Jews and Their Assistants".
Both Czech and European Jewish organizations have repeatedly pointed out that Klaus has never publicly distanced himself from Bartoš and his opinions. Last year Green Party chair Ondřej Liška filed criminal charges against Bartoš over an allegedly racist article he authored about Kraus magazine.
Yesterday the Czech President awarded the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk to Jiří Suchý, who helped establish the Semafor theater, and to philosopher Erazim Kohák. Medals for service to the nation were also awarded to the actress Jiřina Bohdalová and to friends of the president such as agronomist František Čuba and former Minister of Industry Miroslav Grégr.
The highest state honor, the Order of the White Lion (Řád Bílého lva), was not awarded to anyone. This is the second time no suitable nominee has been found for the medal.
The celebration was accompanied by several controversies. Rock musician Vladimír Mišík refused to accept his medal in order to express his disagreement with some of Zeman's recent moves as president.
Most of the university rectors invited to Prague Castle also did not attend in order protest the fact that the President had refused to invite two of their colleagues. The Confederation of Political Prisoners did not send its candidates for honors due to Zeman's position on communism.
Some politicians who usually attend the ceremony also did not do so this year. Czech Social Democratic Party chair Bohuslav Sobotka explained his absence by the need to attend to the crisis in his party.
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