White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment on Thursday regarding a series of questions about the anti-gay climate in Russia, saying he had not seen new media reports on which the inquiries were based.
Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney had no comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent remarks that Russia must “clean up” anything that would impair the nation’s birth rate in regards to the anti-gay atmosphere in the country.
“Well, I didn’t see that report,” Carney said. “Our views on this issue and legislation that’s been passed in Russia have been clearly expressed. So I can’t comment on that particular report except that we obviously believe it is very much in the interest of Russia to conduct an Olympics that welcomes everyone.”
Amid calls on President Obama to invoke the Magnitsky Act to freeze the assets of Russian lawmakers who are fostering the anti-gay atmosphere in the country, Carney again professed to have no knowledge of those calls.
“I haven’t seen that report and I don’t have any update on our position on the Magnitsky Act,” Carney said. “But you can be sure that our views about universal rights and specifically LGBT rights are clearly expressed with regards to, whether it’s Russia or elsewhere, actions taken by countries that are in conflict with those principles.”
Russia has come under international scrutiny as the Winter Olympic approach in Sochi because of the reports of the anti-gay climate, especially the recently enacted law barring pro-gay propaganda.
Carney was also unable to say whether President Obama had discussed the anti-gay atmosphere with Putin during a phone call between the two presidents on Tuesday. According to a White House readout of the call, the two talked about Olympics security, Iran and efforts to disarm Syria of chemical weapons.
“I don’t have a further readout beyond what we provided,” Carney said.
Jamie Kirchick, a gay journalist who has urged the Obama administration to employ the Magnitsky Act against those behind anti-gay abuses in Russia, expressed dismay with Carney’s remarks.
“It is sad to see the administration continue to sacrifice America’s national interests — which includes promoting the human rights of all Russians, LGBT ones included — in pursuit of the chimera of improved U.S.-Russian relations,” Kirchick said. “From Syria to gay rights, Putin is spinning circles around us. The administration should answer the queries of those in Congress wanting to know why it failed to name any more Russian human rights abusers to the Magnitsky List.”