Demand Olympic Network Cover Anti-LGBT Oppression in Russia
Second Zap in 12 Hours
New York, NY (January 16, 2014) — A dozen members of the gay activist group Queer Nation zapped the broadcast of NBC’s Today Show this morning, demanding that NBC report on the Russian government’s
ongoing attacks on gay men and lesbians and other human rights
violations. NBC is the exclusive network for the Olympics in Sochi next month.
“NBC and Matt Lauer will have remarkable access to Vladimir Putin and the Russian LGBT community,” said Ken Kidd, one of the Queer Nation protesters. “Along with that comes the responsibility to report the real news.
Carrying a banner reading “Human Rights Yes, Russian Lies Nyet,” activists chanted “Human rights are not a Game, Putin’s lies kill!” just as the Today Show went live at 8 am, surprising anchor Matt Lauer, who was standing in Rockefeller Plaza outside of the NBC studios, from which the Today Show is broadcast. Lauer, who was interviewing the Today Show audience members who gather outside the studio, will anchor NBC’s Olympic coverage from Sochi. Onlookers turned away from NBC’s cameras to watch the protest.
Police led the chanting protesters away from the plaza after 10 minutes. There were no arrests.
On January 15, two members of Queer Nation NY confronted figure skater Brian Boitano at an appearance at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. Boitano, one of three openly gay men and women chosen by President Barack Obama to represent the United States in Sochi, has remained silent on Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, insisting instead that athletes and spectators respect Russian law when they travel to the Olympics. Boitano said nothing during the ten-minute confrontation. Activists demanded that he actively oppose Russia’s anti-gay laws when he goes to the Winter Olympics.
In June, the Russian government enacted legislation that effectively bans any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. In July, a law banning adoptions of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage took effect.
A second, more 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 While that legislation has been withdrawn ahead of the Olympics, activists believe the parliament will reintroduce it after the Games are over.
The legislation’s passage has been followed by unprecedented, effectively state-sanctioned violence against LGBT people, who have been harassed, arrested, beaten, raped, tortured, and killed. Activists had called for a boycott of Sochi and for the Games to be moved from Russia, citing its abysmal human rights record, including its attacks on LGBT Russians.
“Covering the gay and lesbian members of the US delegation to the Winter Games is not the same as covering Russia’s dismal human rights record,”
continued Kidd, referring to NBC’s interview with tennis great Billie Jean King, another delegation member, earlier this month. “NBC must report on the Kremlin’s murderous policies right now. Its lack of coverage of Russia’s human rights violations while burnishing Russia’s image ahead of the Games is shameful.”
The zaps are the latest in a series of high-profile protests launched by Queer Nation and dating to July 2013. They include December 12 actions at two NBC employee Christmas parties and earlier confrontations with Moscow government officials at meetings promoting US investment in Russia. The group has also targeted supporters of Putin performing at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall as well as “Russia Day” at the New York Stock Exchange.
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