An openly gay journalist and Foreign Policy Initiative fellow was quite literally kicked to the curb by Russian-based television network RT last week after he hijacked a scheduled spot to condemn the network and Russia’s treatment of its gay and lesbian citizens.
Decked out in rainbow-colored suspenders–something that would likely be considered gay “propaganda” in Russia and, therefore, illegal–James Kirchick refused to speak about the Chelsea Manning sentencing, the topic which he was booked as a guest to discuss, and instead unleashed his disdain for Russia’s newly enacted anti-gay laws.
“I have a general rule that I don’t appear on ‘Russia Today’ because it is a Kremlin-funded propaganda channel, and I don’t like to offer legitimacy to such an outlet,” said Kirchick on MSNBC Tuesday. “But because of the situation in Russia right now, I thought it would be a provocative stunt to pull to both draw attention to what’s happening in that country right now, and also to shame the people who work for that network.”
Kirchick went on to say it was “despicable” that RT employees, many of whom live in Western countries with certain freedoms not available in Russia, don’t devote more air time to escalating brutality against LGBT Russians, and instead silently accept what he described as President Vladimir Putin’s “blood money.”
Following the RT interview, which was eventually cut off, Kirchick, who was on vacation in Sweden at the time, got into his car provided by RT. 20 minutes later, he was told that the ride was no longer paid for.
“I was to be deposited on the side of the street,” said Kirchick.
After offering to pay for the car himself, Kirchick was told that the taxi company would waive the fee. “I can only thank the Swedish taxi company for supporting me in my time of need,” he said.
Kirchick’s episode comes at a time of growing outrage over a series of Russian anti-gay laws, the most contentious of which bans “propaganda of a nontraditional sexual relation among minors.” A number of influential actors, activists, and athletes planning to compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi have publicly criticized Russia’s laws, and called on others to either openly defy them or refuse to step foot in the country.
Kirchick said these acts of solidarity send a “positive” message, both to Russia’s LGBT community and to the country’s government. To further that message, he added, a boycott of Russia’s Olympics by political leaders–not athletes or spectators—would be an effective strategy.
“I think it would be great if Vladimir Putin’s left all alone,” said Kirchick.