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04/19/2007


Andy Cohen Turns Down Hosting Miss Universe In Moscow, Cites Russia's Anti-Gay Policies

Andy

Coming on the heels of the recent anti-gay atrocities in Russia, Andy Cohen announced he will not be returning to his gig as co-host of the Miss Universe pageant in 2013 as the pageant is being held in Moscow for the first time ever.

E! News reports that Cohen, the popular host of Bravo's Watch What Happens Live and the glory that is every Bravo reunion, told two-time co-host Giuliana Rancic, that "he turned [the job] down because '[Russia's] discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit...The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested'...adding that he 'didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.'"

Cohen has previously co-hosted the pageant in 2011 and 2012. The pageant is put on by the Miss Universe Organization which is co-owned by NBC Universal and Donald Trump.


This New York Times Story Might Violate Russian Law

Russia-articleLarge

As news of persecution against LGBT people in Russia gets more and more chilling each day, Moscow-based New York Times correspondent David Herszenhorn begins his latest report with an unforgettable lede:

If this article were published in a newspaper based in Russia, it could be labeled 18+ — like an X-rated movie — and start with the following disclaimer: “This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.”

Such warnings, put on any articles that discuss homosexuality or gay rights, are the result of a law nominally aimed at “protecting” children by banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” but widely understood as an effort to suppress homosexuality and Russia’s fledgling gay rights movement.

Herszenhorn's article focuses on the disturbing fallout of a law signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June and the international backlash that has placed scrutiny on the Russian government's recent rightward turn--especially in light of the country's hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

What the new law means for the LGBT people who will visit the Black Sea resort city next year--be they athletes, government officials, journalists or simply tourists--remains a topic of fervent debate.  Officials with the International Olympic Committee have told reporters the organization has received assurances that visitors to Russia will not fall under the anti-LGBT law's restrictions, but the Russian Interior Minister yesterday announced that the law will indeed be in effect during the 2014 games.

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac784ec2970d-300wiIt's very difficult to guess what the ultimate outcome of these decidedly mixed signals may be.  NBC, which has the exclusive rights to broadcast the games, recently assured its LGBT employees that they would be safe during the network's coverage of the Sochi games.  Of course, how a private corporation might do so in defiance of a sovereign nation's laws is, at best, very difficult to determine.

As Herszenhorn notes, the 2014 Olympics is not the only international sporting event Russia would like to host, meaning the state is set for future conflicts surrounding the country's increasingly extremist politics:

Critics say Russia’s repression of gay rights is part of a pattern that also includes a tightening of pressure on civil society groups, and steps to limit foreign influences — all seemingly out of sync with Russia’s push to host international events, like the recently completed 2013 World University Games in Kazan and the international track and field championships now under way in Moscow.

Beyond Sochi, Russia will hold the World Cup in 2018 and is bidding for the World Expo in 2020. Asked if the gay rights issue might derail the bid, a spokeswoman for the deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, noted that Russia was competing with Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal.

What company Russia is keeping.  Like Herszenhorn subtly points out, this is a question that goes beyond one country and one sporting event--it is a collision course between the increasingly tolerant West and countries where LGBT people are seen as criminals in the eyes of the law.


Change.Org Petition Wants Rachel Maddow As Human Rights Correspondent For NBC Olympics Coverage

Rachel Maddow
Controversy surrounding the human rights atrocities is already causing trouble for NBC Universal, who has exclusive broadcasting rights for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. NBC has announced that they will wait until the games draw near before making any decision about whether/how to address the controversy. However, Truth Wins Out has already proposed a solution, and have started a petition on Change.org to gain traction for the idea. Rather than boycott NBC or the games altogether, they wish for NBC to use the Games as an opportunity to shed light on Russia's human rights violations. Executive director Wayne Besen had this to say in the group's official release:

"The spotlight can be harsh, but Russia specifically asked for it when they submitted a bid and agreed to host the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. People around the world want to watch and support the Olympics, but they want to do so with a clear conscience. Make a difference, NBC, by adding Rachel Maddow to the Olympic coverage as a special Human Rights Correspondent." 

Sochi OlympicsThey argue that coverage of the Olympic Games has always included human-interest pieces, about both athletes and the host nation. The Sochi Games present a rare opportunity to have NBC feature hard-hitting, current journalism to an unprecedented global audience, raising awareness to an entirely new level. They also maintain that Rachel Maddow is the person best suited for such a responsibility. According to the group's Associate Director, Evan Hurst:

"Rachel has the expertise and the instincts to tell this full story to a viewing audience who are appalled by the treatment of their Russian brothers and sisters. Adding her to NBC’s coverage won’t fly in the face of the Olympic spirit, but rather enhance it, as there is nothing in the ethics or the history of the Olympic Games that can coexist peacefully with the war Russia is waging against her own citizens, and the rest of the world needs to know."

She also happens to already belong to NBC's family of networks. Thus, they conclude, the decision is a no-brainer. 

The petition currently has 1200 signatures, and wishes to add at least 300 more. You can read and sign the petition, should you so desire, HERE. Meanwhile, sound off in the comments section as to whether you think this would be an acceptable solution for NBC. 


NBC Will Wait To Address Russian LGBT Human Rights Violations Until 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

This afternoon, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus told attendeeds at the TCA Summer TV Press Tour that the network will take a wait and see approach to the anti-gay laws and social injustices taking place in Russia.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

LazarusRussia's draconian anti-gay laws are stirring up controversy for NBC Sports as the division prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus would not directly address the issue at the division's Saturday afternoon Television Critics Association press tour session. But he promised that if the controversy was still front and center come Feb. 6, when the company's 18 days of coverage begins, it would not be swept under the rug.

"We'll address it at the time because it's still unfolding," said Lazarus, adding that the IOC has taken up the issue with the Russian government.  "The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has assured athletes, fans and media that there won't be any issues," he added. "Governments across the world have different laws. I don't know now it's going to [affect] us. If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympic Games we will make sure we are acknowledging it and recognizing it."

More from the LA Times:

NBC's veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said, "there will always be controversy surrounding [the Olympics]. It all seems to work out."

According to Lazarus, the International Olympic Committee has said that gay athletes will be welcome in Russia and encouraged to compete. "Obviously, as a company, we are for equality and opportunity for all," Lazarus said. "We don't believe in the spirit of the law they have passed, and we are hopeful the Olympic spirit will win out."


NBC Olympics Coverage Facing Controversy Over Russian Anti-Gay Laws

SOchi OlympicsRussia's newly-adopted anti-gay laws are already the subject of worldwide controversy. The laws have already been used to justify police brutality against Russian LGBT activists, as well as the imprisonment of advocates from inside their borders and beyond. LGBT advocates have called for the boycott of many Russian goods as a result. Many others have turned their sights to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which will be taking place in the Russian city of Sochi. 

The International Olympic Committee has already told press that it will "work to ensure" that LGBT athletes from around the globe will be able to compete freely in the games without fear of any legal trouble. Many LGBT athletes have expressed their apprehension anyway. Other athletes and advocates have called for a boycott of the games by the United States and the IOC, including the likes of Harvey Fierstein and Dan Savage. 

Sochi-mapAll of this controversy is creating headaches for NBC Universal, who will be broadcasting across the U.S. and beyond. Comcast forked over $4.38 billion to secure that privilege through 2020. As a result, many advocates are turning their sights in NBC's direction, such as HRC President Chad Griffin, who wrote a letter to NBC Universal CEO Stephen Burke saying that the network has a "responsibility to expose" the atrocities committed by Russia towards LGBT people. According to Buzzfeed, HRC hasn't yet taken a formal position on a potential boycott. Rather, Griffin states that...

"NBCUniversal … has a unique opportunity — and a responsibility — to expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune in to watch the Games."

He also added:

"You no doubt agree that it wouldn’t be right to air the opening ceremonies, which is an hours-long advertisement for the host country, without acknowledging that a whole segment of the Russian population — not to mention foreign athletes and visitors — can be jailed for an immutable aspect of their identity." 

NBC Sochi OlympicsNeither NBC nor Comcast have issued any comments on the Sochi Olympics controversy. As it stands, NBC Universal currently scores a perfect 100 on the HRC's annual "Corporate Equality Index", which grades various companies on their commitment to equality on a scale of 0 to 100. As was noted by Griffin in his letter, that perfect score could potentially be at risk should NBC choose to sweep this issue under the rug.

Should NBC eventually decide to boycott the games, as was noted by Variety, it would not be a first. 

"The mere mention of a boycott evokes memories of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, which the United States boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. NBC had paid $85 million for the rights but cancelled its live coverage."

Variety also pointed out that there was no boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which took place under the watch of the Hitler regime. Similar controversy also surrounded the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, which even resulted in the resignation of Steven Spielberg as a creative consultant. As was noted by Harvey Fierstein in his recent New York Times op-ed, "There is a price for tolerating intolerance." Chad Griffin echoed this sentiment to Variety, saying that “there is a skunk at the garden party that can’t be ignored.”

Read Griffin's full letter to NBC HERE...


NBC Blocked Chelsea Clinton's Marriage Equality Ad

Chelseatraining1Increasingly worried about the blurry lines between stoic, non-partisan NBC News and their liberal, definitely partisan cousin MSNBC, executives at the peacock network have been trying to clearly delineate the two sides, and it appears they want to keep special correspondent Chelsea Clinton in the neutral camp.

BuzzFeed reports that executives behind-the-scenes put the kibosh on a pro-gay marriage ad in which Clinton starred:

NBC News blocked backers of a key marriage equality measure in Washington State from using a video featuring Chelsea Clinton urging voters to support a state-wide referendum on gay marriage, BuzzFeed has learned.

Clinton, a vocal proponent of marriage equality, cut the video for a group supporting the Washington state measure, as well as a second video for another group. But NBC, for which Clinton works as a "special correspondent" since last November, "scuttled" the campaign, sources familiar with the ads said.

...

In the video, a third source said that Clinton described her belief that everyone should have the freedom to marry, detailed the importance of the upcoming votes, and stated that success in the states voting on marriage would send a message to rest of the country.

NBC did not respond to the story before it went to virtual press. As for Clinton, she'll soon have to decide whether she wants to continue pursuing journalistic endeavors, endeavors which were coolly received, and what would most likely be a vibrant career in the political sector.


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