Gay Former Olympian Johnny Weir calls protesters 'idiots'
|Johnny Weir & husband Victor Vornov|
NEW YORK CITY -- Former Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir lashed out at anti-Russian LGBTQ protesters calling them 'idiots' in a speech Monday at Barnard College.
The gay figure skater's appearance at the private women's liberal arts college on Manhattan's Upper West Side, had sparked a demonstration by activist group Queer Nation, angered by Weir's support of the Russia in the controversy over its anti-gay laws and the violence that has broken out against LGBTQ Russians ahead of the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia next February.
Andy Humm, a freelance journalist, LGBTQ rights activist and co-host of the New York City based TV news program Gay USA, wrote in a piece Tuesday, that Weir told the audience of about 40 Barnard women students that “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.”
Weir then took aim at his critics and other activists referring to them as “idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” action Weir labeled useless.
“They say all these stupid things,” he said adding, “I never supported the [Russian] government. I supported the people.”
Weir was contracted earlier this fall by NBC Sports to be a commentator at the Winter Olympics, a position that Weir's detractors say obligates him to be open about the current plight of LGBTQ 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,” Ann Northrop told Humm at the protest and then added; “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?”
Weir, accompanied by his husband Victor Weir-Vornov, who is of Russian descent and who also spoke said;
“I still don’t study Russian politics,” Weir said. “I don’t pretend to get Russian politics.” But he did assert, “In my own country, I don’t have equal rights,” though he added that living in New Jersey, “it’s nice to be able to get married.”
Humm reported that Weir characterized the new anti-gay law in Russia, which forbids virtually all public mention of homosexuality as “no anal sex in front of libraries.”
“I've never had a bad experience in Russia,” he said, “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.” Kidd, added; "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.”
In a written apology released hours after his appearance at the college, Weir said;
I felt like a threatened underdog and needed to take a dig at the people who had me on edge. At the end of my speech I opened the floor to a Q&A and it turned out that those very people protesting my speech, were actually friends of the faculty and brave LGBT activists who stood in the same room as me. 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.[...]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. I may not agree with all their tactics nor do I have the sense of responsibility that they have, but any selfless act is worth applause.