Sen. Lindsey Graham has a solution to the United States’ Edward Snowden problem: boycott the Olympics.
Graham told NBC News Tuesday that the U.S. should consider withdrawing from the winter Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in February in Sochi, Russia, if officials allow Snowden to remain in the country safely. Snowden, who has been holed up at an airport in Moscow since late June, reportedly applied for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday.
“If they give asylum to a person who I believe has committed treason against the United States, that’s taking it to a new level,” Graham said.
Snowden has been offered asylum in three South American countries, and has reportedly accepted Venezuela’s offer to house the ex-NSA contractor. But since his U.S. password was revoked, Snowden has been stranded in Moscow.
“If you could go back in time, would you have allowed Adolf Hitler to host the Olympics in Germany?” Graham asked. “I’m not saying that Russia is Nazi Germany, but I am saying that the Russian government is empowering some of the most evil, hateful people in the world.”
The senator added, “What I’m trying to do is let the Russians know enough is enough. How much more are we going to let them get away with before we make it real to them?”
This would not be the first U.S.-led Olympics boycott: in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a boycott of the summer Olympics held in Soviet Moscow over the nation’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Sixty four other countries joined the U.S. in withdrawing from the Olympics. Four years later, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the 1984 summer Olympics held in Los Angeles.
Graham’s opinion isn’t drawing much support from his own party. House Speaker John Boehner called Graham’s call to boycott the Olympics “dead wrong” at a media briefing Wednesday morning.
“Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who cannot find a place to call home?” Boehner said.