Johnny Weir is hitting back at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists angered by his stance on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The U.S. figure skater, who is openly gay and known for his extravagant performances on the ice, is set to join NBC Sports as a commentator at the Olympic games in February. Still, Weir's decision has upset many LGBT rights advocates who feel he should refrain from traveling to Russia in the wake of the nation's controversial "gay propaganda" legislation.
When Queer Nation demonstrators picketed outside his Dec. 2 talk at Barnard College, Weir spoke of “idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” according to Gay City News.
"They say all these stupid things,” he told the audience of about 40 Barnard students, according to the publication. “I never supported the [Russian] government. I supported the people.”
Of Russia's beleaguered LGBT community, he stated, “I know their lives are not like mine. It’s difficult to come out as gay in Russia. I didn’t think the law was changing so much.”
You can read the full Gay City News article here.
Meanwhile, Queer Nation member Duncan Osborne called Weir's NBC appointment part of a "disinformation campaign" on NBC's part in regard to Russia's stance on the LGBT community.
“NBC has had the openly gay Johnny Weir, a former figure skater, and Thomas Roberts, the openly gay MSNBC anchor, make public comments that suggest that Russia’s anti-gay laws are not harming LGBT Russians,” Osborne is quoted as saying. “But those laws have led to the arrest and imprisonment of LGBT Russians, and have resulted in de facto state-sanctioned beatings, torture, rape, and murder of Russian lesbians and gay men. NBC should stop deceiving the public and tell the truth.”
Weir has frequently spoken of his love of Russian culture, while his husband, Victor Weir-Vornov, is of Russian descent. Still, he's been consistently on the defense since his earlier refusal to support a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics after Russia passed its anti-gay laws earlier this year.
"I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement,” he told The New York Times' Juliet Macur in October. “I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”
In a July 25 Op-Ed for the Falls Church News-Press, Weir warned that those hurt most by a potential Olympic boycott would be the athletes who have "dedicated their lives to possibly having their lone life-changing moment."
"I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof," he wrote at the time. "I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world."