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Queer Nation pickets Johnny Weir talk at Barnard College

Former Olympian calls protesters 'idiots,' then apologizes and applauds them

A talk given by former Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir was picketed by protesters who criticized him for minimizing the impact of Russia's anti-gay laws and the persecution of the country's LGBT people. Credit: Screen shot from NBC

Queer Nation protesters picketed a Dec 2 talk given by former US Olympic skater Johnny Weir at Barnard College, criticizing him for "not telling the truth" about the persecution faced by LGBT Russians and making light of the impact of Russia's anti-gay laws, Gay City News reports.

Gay City News says Weir called the protesters "idiots" and quotes him as saying that he has "never supported" the Russian government but that he supports its people. In a reference to Russia's federal law banning the promotion of "nontraditional sexual relations among minors," Weir says it means there should be "no anal sex in front of libraries," the report adds.

Weir also told the Barnard College gathering that he doesn't "study Russian politics," nor does he "pretend to get Russian politics." Weir, who is married to a man of Russian descent, also said he's never been called a fag or been beaten up in Russia.

“I only see the rosy, golden side. I choose to see Russia in an arrogant, selfish way," he says. "I didn’t know what to think about the new law.”

According to the report, one protester held up a banner that read, "Weir: Russian Olympic Clown: NBC: Naive Bloody Collaborators."

Weir, who has been a consistently outspoken opponent of a Sochi Games boycott in response to Russia’s passage of a series of anti-gay laws, will be a commentator for NBC during the Winter Olympics. 

During an interview with ESPN 2 earlier in the year, Weir said he is "directly against a boycott of any kind. While many people can sit on their couch at home and say, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t go to Russia because it’s bad’ — staying away is something I think is the worst possible thing we can do."

In a column entitled "Johnny's World: Foot in Mouth," published in the Falls Church News-Press of Virginia after the Barnard talk, Weir expressed remorse for insulting people who are "fighting in their own way."  

"This is an issue that is very heated for many LGBT activists who want to protect and save the Russian LGBT community, and I whole-heartedly 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," he says.

Read the rest of Weir's column on the Falls Church News-Press site.

The Vocativ site also carried a report about Weir's appearance at Barnard College.