POLITICS

Former Soap Opera Producer Speaks For U.S. In Hungary's Migrant Crisis

Before being named ambassador, she was a big fundraiser for President Obama.

As Hungary prevents hundreds of migrants and refugees from boarding westbound trains, the top U.S. diplomat in the country might not have the most useful background: She's a former soap opera producer.

Colleen Bell, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, was once a producer on the soap opera "The Bold And The Beautiful." Bell's State Department biography also notes her philanthropic work "tackling some of the United States' most vexing domestic and global public policy challenges." It fails to mention that she helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

Rewarding big donors with ambassadorships is nothing new in Washington, but some critics say the practice has gotten out of control. That Bell now finds herself on the frontlines of the biggest refugee crisis in the past 25 years shows the risks of naming those with little relevant experience to the ambassador's office.

During her confirmation hearing last year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointed to Bell to highlight how egregious the practice had become. Bell struggled to describe the United States' strategic interests in Hungary when she was asked by McCain.

More than 2,000 people have been waiting in squalid conditions outside the Keleti station in Budapest this week as the Hungarian government refused to let them board trains that would take them to Western Europe. On Thursday, the Hungarian government tricked some of them onto a train that only led them back to an overcrowded camp in Hungary that many had fled.

In December, when Bell was confirmed by the Senate, the White House said that her success in the private sector gave the president confidence in her.

"As somebody who obviously has succeeded in the business world," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "she is somebody that the president has confidence will be able to maintain our relationship with the government and the people of Hungary."

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