FOR IMMEDiATE RELEASE:
NBC’S JOHNNY WEIR DISMISSES RUSSIA’S ANTI-GAY LAWS, VIOLENCE
Activists Demand NBC Denounce Comments & Russian Laws
Remarks Made at Forum on Moral Responsibilities of Olympic Athletes
December 3, 2013 (New York) — In comments made at a forum on the moral responsibilities of athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia, gay figure skater and NBC Olympics commentator Johnny Weir minimized the impact of Russia’s anti-gay laws and disparaged US and Russian activists who are battling to overturn those laws, which have fueled a growing campaign of anti-LGBT violence in Russia.
“I only see the rosy, golden side [of Russia],” Weir said, according to an article in Gay City News, a New York City LGBT paper that reported on the event. “I choose to see Russia in an arrogant, selfish way.”
“Johnny Weir’s comments are a further assault on LGBT Russians, who are being violently attacked by the Russian government and neo-Nazi gangs as a result of these laws,” said Ken Kidd, a Queer Nation member. “Since NBC has seen fit to hire him, he might as well have added, ‘This message brought to you by NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.’” Kidd added, “NBC must immediately denounce Weir’s comments and speak out against Russia’s anti-gay law.”
The December 2 event was held at Barnard College on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The statement by the retired figure skater disregards the violence perpetrated by the Russian government and neo-Nazi vigilantes, who have routinely posted videos of their attacks on Russian websites since the law was enacted in June. The law bans any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet.
Leaders worldwide, including President Barack Obama, have denounced the laws, and LGBT activists around the globe have protested the law and the continuing violence directed at LGBT Russians. Since June, gay and lesbian Russians have been arrested, jailed, beaten, raped, tortured, and murdered in a growing wave of de facto state-sanctioned violence.
Queer Nation, an LGBT rights group, protested outside the event calling on NBC to accurately report on the dire circumstances of LGBT Russians. Weir derided LGBT activists as “idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” and added, “They say all these stupid things.” Weir attempted to walk back this characterization on his blog this morning.
With much fanfare, including an October 23 appearance on NBC’s Today show and a profile in the New York Times the next day, Weir announced his retirement from figure skating and that he would be a commentator on figure skating for NBC during the Games in Sochi, Russia.
“With his claim that the law only bans ‘anal sex in front of libraries,’ NBC’s Johnny Weir has, in effect, endorsed the Russian law,” Kidd said, referring to another remark Weir made at Barnard. “Horribly, these comments in support of Russian gay-bashing are the first public statements made by any major company, including the sponsors, involved in the Olympics.”
A second recently enacted law bars adoption of Russian children by anyone living in a jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage. The Russian parliament recently proposed legislation that would allow the government to remove children from a household headed by a gay or lesbian parent. While that legislation has been withdrawn ahead of the Olympics, activists believe the parliament will reintroduce it after the Games are over.