NBC announced how it intends to handle coverage of Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law during its coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi: guest commentary. Sorry, Bob Costas. The network announced this morning it has hired New Yorker editor (and former Washington Post Moscow bureau chief) David Remnick to provide guest commentary on the network’s air during its coverage of the Games. Remnick, will contribute to NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony and will offer commentary for NBC News in Sochi, the network said.
“We are facing an Olympics that have a number of issues around them — substantial, meaty, news issues,” NBC’s Olympics exec producer Jim Bell told Sports Illustrated over the weekend. “For us to be able to have an opportunity to address them with someone like David made perfect sense. We would be remiss not to rely on some of the best and brightest minds to help present this to our viewers the right way.”
Added Remnick: “I think they want to have someone who has a familiarity with Russian politics and culture, various controversies, Vladimir Putin and all these questions I have stepped in for a very long time.” Bell said Remnick will kick off his in-Games commentary during the “creative part” of the opening ceremonies. Remnick served as a Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days Of The Soviet Empire.
NBC’s Costas, who’s known for his outspoken commentary, the other day told the Associated Press he won’t comment on Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law because he’s hoping to land an interview with what AP called “responsible people” (read: Russian President Vladimir Putin).
NBC’s already been getting commentary, of sorts, on the law and the network’s Games coverage, from retired Olympian Johnny Weir who in November signed on as part of NBC’s team covering the Games. Weir had already asserted the Games “are not the place to make a political statement,” and, earlier this month, characterized Russia’s new anti-gay law as “no anal sex in front of libraries,” adding he would not boycott the Games because “just to piss off Putin is not a reason not to field a team.” Protesters at that event included some holding a sign that read: “Weir: Russian Olympic Clown; NBC: Naïve Bloody Collaborators,” and one told the NYC paper Gay City News that Weir was “selling out millions of people to satisfy his desire not to forgo his income or status,” adding, “Is this what he would have done in Germany in 1936?” Weir dismissed the protesters as “idiots like the ones outside dumping vodka in the street.” He apologized in print the next morning and NBC issued a statement saying “We’re supportive of Johnny’s apology for his choice of words last night in an emotional setting,” noting, “As we’ve previously stated, NBC will cover all newsworthy issues as they are relevant to the Games, including the LGBT law.”