Johnny Weir Says Gay Protestors Are “Idiots”

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Former Olympic skater Johnny Weir was picketed by Queer Nation outside his talk at Barnard College December 2 for his position 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.”

During his talk he spoke of “idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” action he dismissed as useless.

“They say all these stupid things,” he told the audience of about 40 Barnard women students. “I never supported the [Russian] government. I supported the people.”

Polling shows the Russian people support the anti-gay laws overwhelmingly.

Given Barnard College platform, figure skater dismisses new Russian law as banning “anal sex in front of libraries”

The banner outside, made and held by Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag, among others, stated in blood red, “Weir: Russian Olympic Clown; N.B.C.: Naïve Bloody Collaborat­ors.”

Weir, whose bio says that he “works with the Russian Children's Welfare Society and Russian Consulate in New York City,” will join NBC Sports as a commentator at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.

“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 Ann Northrop of Queer Nation at the protest. “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 spoke mostly of what he called his “storybook life” as a champion figure skater, but complained bitterly of the “ugly inner world politics of figure skating” that he believes made it impossible for him to win an Olympic medal. The skater did not officially come out as gay until after his last Olympics in 2010, when he wrote a memoir saying he did so in response to the rash of highly publicized gay teens suicides.

He repeatedly expressed his lifelong love for all things Russian, especially “a style that was so inspiring.” His husband, Victor Weir-Vornov, is of Russian descent and also spoke at the forum.

“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.”

Referring to the new anti-gay law in Russia, which forbids virtually all public mention of homosexuality as a threat to children, the athlete flippantly characterized it 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,” something occurring systematically to many others since the law was passed, none known to have been an Olympic athlete. “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.”

Weir acknowledged the challenges the Russian LGBT community faces, saying, “I know their lives are not like mine. It’s difficult to come out as gay in Russia. I didn’t think the law was changing so much.”

He went on to emphasize that the anti-gay laws carry “fines,” not prison. He voiced no concern for the violence against LGBT people that escalated sharply following passage of the law earlier this year or about pending legislation that would take children away from gay or lesbian parents.

He instead expressed deep concern about the call for a boycott of the Sochi Olympic, saying it would “ruin 600 lives” –– those of the athletes who have trained for it.

Weir said he often performs as a figure skater in Russia.

“If I am asked if I’m gay, I’ll say yes,” he said, but, “I’m not a flag waver, but I fully support people who wave flags.” He emphasized, however, that an athlete doing so at the Olympics could be expelled.

“I could never forgive myself if I was pro-boycott,” he said. “Just to piss off Putin is not a reason not to field a team. I’m hard-headed.”

Then, alluding to the pop superstar who has refused to speak out against the anti-gay law during his imminent Russian tour, Weir added, “I prefer to fight where I live than in another country. I’m as gay as they come. I am Elton John’s fanny pack.”

Queer Nation plans to picket John’s Madison Square Garden concert December 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Weir-Vornov was more critical of his parents’ homeland than was his husband.

“It is not a free country,” he said. “I am more activist than Johnny.” Still, he emphasized, he supports his husband “completely.”

Barnard College political science scholar Kimberly Marten. | TWITTER.COM
Barnard College political science scholar Kimberly Marten. | TWITTER.COM

Weir was applauded by the crowd at one of the nation’s most elite women’s colleges.

During the Q & A, this reporter challenged the skater to apologize to the activists he called “idiots,” noting the four of them have a combined history of more than 100 years of gay and AIDS activism that contributed to his right to marry Weir-Vernov.

Asked if he saw any distinctions between the situation facing LGBT people in the US and those in Russia, Weir said, “I understand the beatings, the deaths, and understand not being able to live your life.” He said he lashed out at the activists because they have said things about boycotting the Olympics and about him he considers “unfair.”

“A lot of these people have chosen to be activists,” Weir argued, saying his own “activism” is living his life openly with his husband.

Facing critical questioning from others in the audience, Weir said, “I applaud the protestors,” but warned that if athletes do the same in Sochi, “you can have your gold medal stripped from you.”

“I apologize if I offended anyone,” he said.

In a column in the Falls Church (Virginia) News-Press the morning after the Barnard appearance, Weir again apologized for his choice of words, writing, “I allowed my own fear and emotion to get the better of me and for a moment I became a hypocrite.” He also wrote, "My stance of being pro-athlete before being pro-gay has ruffled so many feathers and it becomes difficult to speak publicly because of this fight.”

At Barnard, while insisting, “I don’t consider myself a celebrity,” Weir, at the same time, said, “As a public figure I owe my livelihood to people who support me. I didn’t ask to be a public figure.” He shows solidarity with Russian gays, he said, “by being with them.”

According to Queer Nation, Barnard rejected the group’s request that it provide alternative viewpoints during the Weir event. The group was critical of NBC for putting two gay employees forward –– Weir and MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, who recently traveled to Moscow to host Donald Trump’s Miss Universe pageant –– “to put on a happy gay face on the Russian government’s bigotry.”

Barnard political science professor Kimberly Marten, who moderated, said a video of the event would be posted on the website of Columbia’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Yuri says:
Sad that the actual NBC idiotic promoter is John Weir himself!
Dec. 3, 2013, 12:04 pm
Luke says:
Is covering the Olympics an entertainment job or a journalist job? NBC seems to have decided it's an entertainer's job. To help Putin distract attention from a pogrom against gays?
Dec. 3, 2013, 12:44 pm
Rebecca says:
"I didn’t ask to be a public figure.” Well, then, shut up and quit making public appearances.
Dec. 3, 2013, 12:50 pm
dc1 says:
I wish Weir would get the fact that he as a high-profile gay person (especially in Russia) his flippant disregard for the deeply-held concerns of the protesters is a shot in the arm for those who want to minimize the seriousness of these laws. Weir has a right not to join in the protests, but unless he agrees with the move to silence LGBT Russians, he should at least respect the goals of those in Russia and elsewhere who hope to send Putin a message.
Dec. 3, 2013, 1:06 pm
Austin says:
he is a coward, and as such deserves nothing, not even pity.
Dec. 3, 2013, 1:13 pm
David H says:
All praise should go to the "idiot" protesters who deserve his and our undying respect! And nothing but scorn for people like Weir who promote themselves as public figures, then cry foul when people criticize them as public figures. Could he be any more selfish? Or ignorant? The law as merely “no anal sex in front of libraries”?!? Tell that to the people who have been arrested and beaten by the police! In his own words, he says "all these stupid things." Better yet, tell it to the kids who have been kidnapped and tortured, while the police do nothing, despite the fact that the perpetrators have posted video evidence of their crimes. Tell it to the people at Moscow's biggest gay par, which has been attacked 4 times in the past month, with armed terrorists and poison gas. Let's be honest: all he actually cares about is the money he'll be making at the Olympics.
Dec. 3, 2013, 3:42 pm
LittleBearNYC says:
Oh my, is this man confused or what? His contradictions are boundless. With Weir, Thomas Roberts, and uber-prostitute Elton John it is all about the dollars- the justifications just follow the taking of bucks.
Dec. 3, 2013, 3:49 pm
Sergey says:
So support a LGBT repressions in Russia and Putin with these Olympic games is the stupid things. Provide to Putin regime bonuses in Russia for his activities with Olympic games there is obviously dirty political game against peoples who suffer there!! Why nobody make Olympic games in Syria after all?
Dec. 3, 2013, 3:59 pm
Barry G. Wick says:
Good-bye Johnny, sad he just lost all his gay support....he says he's ignorant of Russian politics...then why comment? Obviously he's never been to a march where people threw rocks or yelled epithets at him...I'll never buy a ticket to see him...I won't watch NBCs Olympic coverage...did you hear that sponsors??? Weir better start waving the rainbow flag....maybe even the US flag that stands for freedom...because his waving the Russian flag now supports hatred and VIOLENCE!
Dec. 3, 2013, 5:39 pm
BKT says:
This is the same guy who used to consider Paris Hilton a role model.
Dec. 3, 2013, 9:03 pm
David Fagan says:
Perhaps people it is time to award Johnny Weir his tiara, perhaps throw him a parade, and allow him to fade into the rainbow. He has lost any credence as a gay spokesperson, if he ever had any. Weir is Weir much like Liberace was Liberace. He enjoys playing dress up and preening for a crowd but, like Liberace, he is damaging to the gay community for his elitism. And let us all remember that Thomas Roberts shamefully pled that he could not find a way to comment on the topic of LGBT discrimination while on stage in Russia. And is the manly Roberts can't give a shout out on a stage surrounded by beauty pageant contestants, should we be surprised if Weir only self-aggrandizes himself more while 'reporting' from Sochi?
Dec. 3, 2013, 10:57 pm
guest says:
"I don't consider myself a celebrity". Really? Let's check your self-proclaimed, self-written Twitter bio, shall we? "2-Time Olympic Figure Skater, Olympic Analyst for @NBCSports, Film STAR, TV STAR," etc. So I see. Lie much, Johnny Weir? Appearing in a documentary as yourself about your own life doesn't qualify you as a "Film STAR". What other films have you "starred" in? Johnny, please just give it up and stop blaming others for YOUR mistakes. Talk about your new, all time LOW and below-the-belt sucker punch; blaming fans for bewitching you to say and do the stupid and insane things you claim you wouldn't normally say or do, when you're lucky to have any at all who support you and clean up your messes for you and after you. Who ARE you? WEIR. DONE.
Dec. 4, 2013, 1:35 am
@GayAllianceUkr says:
Johnny, I was your BIG fan. Unfortunately, WAS is a key word. You turned into attention whore and you know noting about gay people in Russia. It's pity because you seemed to me a smart person. But you're not. I'm very disapointed.
Dec. 4, 2013, 7:08 am
JWC says:
While I do not agree with neither Mr. Weir, principally because I do not believe I think he has thought things through, nor Elton John, I believe that Mr. Roberts gave a great deal of thought to his actions. Thomas Roberts took the opportunity to report as a journalist the conditions in place in Russia. The vehicle that allowed him to get there might have been capitalistic in nature, but it did not stop him from doing his job as a journalist. What gets lost in all the sturm and drang is that Russian LGBTs themselves do not believe that a boycott or some of the actions US LGBT groups have taken are going to be ultimately effective at all. __US LGBT groups have a playbook that is effective in the US and to some extent the UK and western Europe, but the nature of antigay feelings in Eastern Europe are endemic to the society. We tend to forget that western attitudes have not taken root in Russia and Eastern Europe and think that problems are solved in a "one size fits all" way. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Dec. 4, 2013, 10:52 am
JWC says:
The solution will not be brought about by protests and boycotts by us, but by the people themselves. We should listen to them when we offer assistance, not "do it our way." Which if you think about is supremely arrogant. We have an opportunity to help Russian LGBTs and Eastern European LGBTs, all we have to do is listen, support and not insist on applying a western solution. As far as the rest goes? Yes, we should apply pressure to corporations and the IOC to be cognizant of their actions and make sure LGBTs are protected while competing in Sochi. But think carefully on this...what happens when the cameras are gone and Eastern European and Russian LGBTs are no longer in the news? What good can we ultimately do when everyone packs up and goes home?
Dec. 4, 2013, 10:53 am
@chellspecker says:
Johnny, baby doll, you clearly don't know how this all works. You just can't reconcile "living the dream" Johnny with "responsible human being" Johnny. Just because you didn't ask for the responsibility doesn't mean you don't have it. Do you think those lovely ladies at the Stonewall signed up on a sheet of paper at the door to be activists? They just wanted to be themselves without getting picked on and beaten up, just like the gay people in Russia. Honey, just try for one moment to think of how much good you could do, and bitch, GROW A PAIR!
Dec. 4, 2013, 1:03 pm
@chellspecker says:
Pot. Kettle.
Dec. 4, 2013, 1:04 pm
book shy says:
I support "no anal sex in front of libraries" gay or otherwise, it's a disturbing image.
Dec. 4, 2013, 5:56 pm
mykel says:
johnny weir - the good news is your 15 minutes are over. & leave your furs at home.
Dec. 4, 2013, 6:23 pm
David says:
Very well said!
Dec. 4, 2013, 7:33 pm
David says:
Your comment is not at all fair, LittleBearNYC. Thomas Roberts reported on the social & legal situation in Russia today while he was there. As for Elton John, giving concerts without turning them into political rallies isn't selling out. He can make a point just by going -- plus, unlike Weir, he hasn't defended Russia's government or culture to anyone.
Dec. 4, 2013, 7:41 pm
William Stribling says:
Gay City News is back in stride again, with articles such as this. First I heard of Elton John playing the fool, again. Listened to some of the liberal MSNBC tonight, missed any of the Johnny Weir story, if any on that network. It's out of the bag, the mainstream corporate media doesn't hold any genuine concern for the GLTB community - thank god for ourselves and our many and good straight supporters who do continue the fight.
Dec. 5, 2013, 2:23 am
jimfouratt says:
QUEER NATION protested Columbia (Barnard) University for allowing openly gay Olympic skater Johnny Weir to speak against a US boycott or gay/lesbian athletes boycotting the Winter Games in Russia. Queer Nation should step back from attacking openly Gay/Lesbian athletes and concentrate on demanding US corporate sponsors of the Olympics speak out against the homophobic laws put in place in Russia and publicly embraced by their President Vladimir Putin. I rather doubt that anyone in the leadership of QUEER NATION has spent their lives with one goal insight . Winning Gold for their Country at the Olympics. I believe in supporting the Russian Lesbian and Gay Movement by bringing attention here to what they are going through. I support the athletes who want to compete as athletes and not be frightened or intimidated by either the Russian government and their security apparatus, ,The Orthodox Church or the Neo Nazi youth thugs. all hellbent on attacking Gays, We should be demanding the Olympic Organizers provide safe space for all athletes participating. I support any openly gay athlete like Blake Skjellerup who wants to compete and their straight athlete allies . Wake Up Queer Nation, this is one tactic that hurts gay and lesbian people I have stood with you this fall in protests and I have dumped Vodka to make a political point. But I will not stand with you in silencing gay/lesbian athletes or demanding they do not compete . Here is op ed Weir wrote after the Barnard protest .And I say to my friend Gilbert Baker . fight the power not the athletes ..I for one am proud of them . ..and i just bet you are too... do click on the link int his article which will take you to the full Weir Op ED. I also notice the tone of bulling Weir in some of these comments. ugly! Read what Weir actually feels here
Dec. 5, 2013, 3:28 am
Russian Lad says:
Ok, it's official, just like we suspected all along: Johnny Weir is an idiot.
Dec. 5, 2013, 3:29 pm
ManWytch says:
I watched his show on LOGO for about 3 minutes and couldn't stand how self indulgent, self centered and arrogant this guy was.. it was truly unwatchable! He never won in the Olympics because he was never good enough and wore way too flamboyant costumes for the very conservative judges. I personally believe you should be able to wear what you want, but when you look like Priscilla on top of the bus- you are going to turn people off! Why Barnard College had him speak at their college is beyond me...But why he can't see why people are upset with his actions just proves he is out for himself- he is a self promotional egotistical money hungry wanna-be! He is just another reason I won't be watching the Russian Olympics! His self-centeredness turns my stomach- and he doesn't demonstrate any intelligence beyond a 6th grade education. (My apologies to 6th graders) It just shows that he is missing a "D" at the end of his name!
Dec. 5, 2013, 9:37 pm
Ruth Berman says:
It's that simple. he's an idiot all the way to the bank. he doesn't have an ounce of sensitivity to his own oppressive situation as a gay may because he has money and fame
Dec. 5, 2013, 10:44 pm
guest says:
Case in point, taken. I agree Johnny Weir is "out for himself". This then begs the question; if a gay man is "out for himself" and not for the common good of all concerned, then is he really "gay" or just "gay" for the sake of more fame and whatever notoriety "being gay" brings? Furthermore, can the same be said of Victor Voronov? Look at all the notoriety he has gained very quickly in just less than two years. Had Johnny Weir not taken Victor Voronov under his wing, so to speak, would we even know much less care about who or what he is? I think not.
Dec. 9, 2013, 4:03 pm
Rikki says:
Wow, do I detect a little jealousy there????
Feb. 8, 2014, 12:43 pm
Big Bill says:
It is one thing to be gay. It is another to be quere. He does more harm than good for promoting a at lifestyle.
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