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Johnny Weir apologizes after calling gay activists ‘idiots’ for anti-Russian protests

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
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NEW YORK — Former Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir apologized Tuesday after lashing out at gay rights activists during a speech at Barnard College, calling them “idiots” for their anti-Russian protests, which he labeled “useless.”

Weir’s appearance at the private women’s liberal arts college in Manhattan on Monday evening had sparked a demonstration by activist group Queer Nation, which is angered by Weir’s planned participation as an NBC commentator during the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

APJohnny Weir

AP
Johnny Weir

Weir’s critics say his participation “in effect,” endorses Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, which prohibits the “promotion of non-traditional relationships” as either normal or equal to that of heterosexual relationships.

Queer Nation said it was protesting outside of Weir’s appearance to “demand that NBC tell the truth about the dire circumstances of LGBT Russians.”

“We’re angry at him for not telling the truth about what’s going on in Russia to LGBT Russians and everybody else who dissents, who are being brutalized,” said Queer Nation protester Ann Northrop, reported Gay City News. “He is selling out millions of people to satisfy his desire not to forgo his income or status. Is this what he would have done in Germany in 1936?”

But Weir, speaking to an audience of about 40 Barnard women students, said the Olympics “are not the place to make a political statement” about Russia’s anti-gay laws,” and “you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”

He then took aim at his critics and other activists, referring to them as “idiots” — “like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” an action Weir labeled useless.

“They say all these stupid things,” said Weir. “I never supported the [Russian] government. I supported the people.”

Weir, accompanied by his husband Victor Weir-Vornov, who is of Russian descent, said he doesn’t pretend to understand Russian politics, but remarked that even in his own country “I don’t have equal rights.”

“I’ve never had a bad experience in Russia,” he said. “{I’ve] not gotten called a fag or beat up. I only see the rosy, golden side. I choose to see Russia in an arrogant, selfish way. I didn’t know what to think about the new law.”

Ken Kidd, another Queer Nation protester called Weir’s comments “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.”

“NBC must immediately denounce Weir’s comments and speak out against Russia’s anti-gay law,” demanded Kidd.

In a written apology released hours after his appearance at the college, Weir said he “felt like a threatened underdog.”

“I felt, and still feel, a great deal of remorse for allowing myself to insult other people, fighting in their own way, and for using insulting words instead of my usual cheer-leading antics for one and all,” wrote Weir.

“I have been defending athlete’s rights to compete in Sochi, despite Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, and have publicly opposed a boycott. This is an issue that is very heated for many LGBT activists who want to protect and save the Russian LGBT community, and I wholeheartedly applaud their bravery,” he wrote.

Weir said that although he does not agree with the protesters tactics, “any selfless act is worth applause.”

Update: On Wednesday, NBC released a statement that said Weir feels “remorse” for insulting protesters during his appearance at Barnard College.

“We’re supportive of Johnny’s apology for his choice of words last night in an emotional setting. As we’ve previously stated, NBC will cover all newsworthy issues as they are relevant to the Games, including the LGBT law”, NBC said.

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