South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was “dead wrong” when he suggested the United States should boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia if the country continues to harbor Edward Snowden, House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday.
Boehner, R-Ohio, rejected the notion during a press conference when asked about Graham’s recent comments to a newspaper in which he suggested a boycott.
“Listen, I love Sen. Graham. We’ve been close friends for 20 years. But I think he’s dead wrong,” Boehner said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”
In an interview with The Hill earlier this week, Graham said boycotting the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, would “send the Russians the most unequivocal signal” if the nation grants asylum to Snowden, the former government contractor who in May leaked sensitive information about federal spying practices to news outlets.
Snowden requested asylum earlier this week from Russia, where he is currently staying after fleeing the United States.
“It might help, because what they’re doing is outrageous,” Graham told The Hill. “We certainly haven’t reset our relationship with Russia in a positive way. At the end of the day, if they grant this guy asylum it’s a breach of the rule of law as we know it and is a slap in the face to the United States.”
A decision to boycott would not be unprecedented. Former President Jimmy Carter pulled the United States out of the Games in Moscow in 1980, and the Soviet Union did not participate in the 1984 Games held in Los Angeles,Calif.