Russian Olympian Irina Rodnina Blames Racist Obama Tweet on a Hacker

by Julia Ioffe | February 10, 2014

Remember Irina Rodnina? The legendary Soviet figure skater who lit the Olympic flame at Friday's opening ceremony?

The one who, back in September, had tweeted an awfully racist doctored photograph of Barack and Michelle Obama, and then defended it as freedom of speech? 

Well, now, she's gotten back on Twitter to explain. A few hours ago, Rodnina tweeted the following.

I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don't support the tweeted photo or racism in any form. (1/2)

— Irina Rodnina (@IRodnina) February 10, 2014

My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgement in my initial response and handling of the event. (2/2)

— Irina Rodnina (@IRodnina) February 10, 2014

I mean, I guess if you squint, it's not racism if your account was hacked, but why was this your response to the hacker? 

Свобода слова есть свобода! За свои комплексы сами и отвечайте!

— Irina Rodnina (@IRodnina) September 13, 2013

(Translation: "Freedom of speech is freedom of speech! You're responsible for your own insecurities!")

But I have another question. 

For the last couple of days, I have been trying to reach out Alyona Minkovski, Rodnina's daughter and a host on HuffPo Live. My attempts, understandably, were met with deafening silence. Then came Rodnina's response. But before that happened, here's what Minkovski tweeted the morning after the torch lighting:

Well that was a lot of twitter hate to wake up to...

— Alyona (@AlyonaMink) February 8, 2014

My mother is neither a racist nor a homophobe. I think the tweet was extremely insensitive, and we've addressed it as a family. (1/2)

— Alyona (@AlyonaMink) February 8, 2014

That doesn't change the fact that she's a great mother and watching last night I was proud. (2/2)

— Alyona (@AlyonaMink) February 8, 2014

Note the similar format and the English, which Rodnina pretty much never uses on her all-Russian Twitter feed. And the fact that Minkovski, who is in Sochi with her mom, immediately retweeted Rodnina's tweets.

So my question for Minkovski, if she ever responds to my emails, is: is this what you meant by "dealt with it as a family"? And if so, whose brilliant idea was the Weiner I-was-hacked defense? 

New Republic Senior Editor Julia Ioffe will be writing dispatches from Russia for the duration of the Olympics. For the entire collection of her pieces, click here.

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