But the Orban government’s direct attack on Mr. Juncker seemed a bridge too far. The propaganda campaign was denounced as a shocking promotion of a ludicrous conspiracy theory.
Mr. Orban dismissed his critics inside the E.P.P., calling them “useful idiots.”
It is a phrase freighted with historical resonance, sometimes attributed to Lenin, as his assessment of the naïve Western admirers of his brand of socialism.
Manfred Weber, who leads the European People’s Party in the European Parliament and is running to succeed Mr. Juncker as the leader of the European Commission, rushed to Budapest, demanding an apology.
Mr. Orban conceded only that he was sorry if anyone was offended. Even after the suspension, Mr. Orban denied that he had waged a campaign against Mr. Juncker, saying his government was simply informing the Hungarian people.
Mr. Weber also demanded that the Central European University be allowed to once again operate in Budapest. Mr. Orban has been noncommittal, but his government signaled that he was ready to make some concessions.
Given the stakes, the powerful German Christian Democrats tried to straddle the fence with support for suspension. “As long as Fidesz does not fully restore trust, there cannot be normal full membership,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the party and a confidante of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, told Reuters earlier on Wednesday.
Jörg Meuthen, a spokesman for the far-right Alternative for Germany party, said that Mr. Orban and Fidesz had their real home with the far right in the European Parliament.
“With its clear and future-oriented positions, especially in central questions like migration and border control, Orban and Fidesz would fit much better into the family of parties in Europe that truly stands for conservatism and freedom,” Mr. Meuthen said.