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’Phobe to ’Phobe :: McCain to Rebut Putin -- in ’Pravda?’

by Kilian Melloy
Saturday Sep 14, 2013

Reports that Senator John McCain is preparing to respond to Vladimir Putin's recent New York Times op-ed in the pages of Russia's own Communist newspaper Pravda may have been overstated.

Putin's op-ed sparked further criticism for the Russian president and, indirectly, Russia's recently-enacted law targeting gays and same-sex couples, who are now at risk of fines and imprisonment for "promoting homosexuality" by showing affection in public or speaking out about their relationships.

The law also provides punitive measures for the country's press and applies to foreign visitors. The latter has created concern and anxiety around the Winter Olympics, scheduled to take place next year in the Russian village Sochi, as well as the 2018 World Cup, which Russia is expected to host.

Putin's New York Times op-ed focused on the prospect of American intervention in Syria, and ranked critics for, among other things, its explicit disagreement of the idea of "American exceptionalism."

The piece ruffled American feathers. Mock conservative news program "The Colbert Report" featured a segment in which host Stephen Colbert linked the issues of Syria and Russia's anti-gay law.

"Folks, I was on the fence before this, but we've got to bomb Syria," he concluded. "I mean massive airstrikes, and just to stick it to Putin, I say we use lesbian pilots flying the Enola Gay," Colbert said, as reported by website The Raw Story on Sept. 13.

Meantime, news outlets scrambled to keep up as the story about a McCain rebuttal in the pages of Pravda unfolded.

Mainstream news sources such as CNN, as well as GLBT news sites like Joe.My.God reported that after McCain told a CNN reporter he would like to publish an op-ed of his own in Russia's famed newspaper, the editor of Pravda reached out with an offer for the American senator (and 2008 GOP presidential candidate) to do just that.

"Mr. McCain has been an active anti-Russian politician for many years already," an editor named Dmitri Sudakov said, according to CNN's Political Ticker page. "We have been critical of his stance on Russia and international politics in our materials, but we would be only pleased to publish a story penned by such a prominent politician as John McCain."

But McCain -- who opposes marriage equality and voiced reservations at the repeal of DADT, the law under which GLBT American military personnel could be discharged if the truth about their sexual orientation came to light -- may not have been invited to contribute to the publication he thought, subsequent news articles reported.

Though Sudakov is an editor for a publication by the name Pravda, it now appears that the invitation did not originate from the Pravda. An AFP story noted that Russian officials expressed bewilderment at news reports that McCain would be submitting an op-ed to the longstanding publication.

"There is only one Pravda in Russia," Boris Komotsky, the editor of the famed Russian publication, stated at the Pravda website, going on to note that the publication "is the organ of the Communist Party, and we have heard nothing about the intentions of the Republican senator."

"The confusion appeared to have arisen because The Cable, the website of the US magazine Foreign Policy contacted, an electronic news website that is not connected to Pravda newspaper, with the suggestion," the AFP story added, going on to explain that "The two publications could hardly be more different."

Indeed, the AFP story noted, the original Pravda, founded in 1912 and long newspaper of record for the communist Russian state, has seen its status diminished since the end of the Soviet Union. Now the paper is a decidedly scaled-down publication, but it still retains a sense of its political roots.

"Our answer to McCain is this: If you support the position of the Russian Communist Party on Syria, then we will publish your article," Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Communist Party, stated.

This turn of events has more than likely snuffed any possibility for a McCain op-ed in reply to Putin's piece. The McCain camp had seemed more than ready to contribute to the official Communist publication, noted Joe.My.God in a Sept. 13 posting. "When asked what McCain would write about, McCain's spokesman called Russia a 'target-rich environment' and suggested that McCain would write about Russia's history of human rights abuses," the Joe.My.God article reported.

Added the post, "Don't hold your breath for any mention of LGBT rights, of course."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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