As the blast range from Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault scandal continues to radiate in the United States, in Russia one prominent Kremlin media personality is throwing his support behind the beleaguered Hollywood mogul.
Dmitry Kiselyov is the head of the state-run Rossiya Segodnya and a powerful TV commentator whose message is often synced with the inner chambers of President Vladimir Putin’s government. He used his talk show last Sunday evening to criticize the chain reaction of public outcry now spreading from Weinstein to other powerful media and business players.
The whole controversy, Kiselyov argued, has drained sex out of American life, turning the country into a bunch of uptight prigs.
“I’m categorically against sexual harassment,” Kiselyov said on his Vesti Nedeli show on Channel One, according to a translation from the English-language Moscow Times. “But this campaign, with brutal seriousness, threatens to destroy the humor in people’s relationships . . . affecting impulsivity, spontaneity and passion.”
The Putin insider continued: “There’s no sex in America . . . the sexual revolution is a thing of the past,” he said. “Now everything can be seen as dirty harassment.”
Kiselyov — who sits at the top of a propaganda apparatus that includes RT, the U.S.-based branch of Russian state-owned media — delivered a monologue bereft of any compassion for the dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of rape and harassment.
His words also highlighted the contrast between the two countries’ reactions to Weinstein — and sexual assault. In the states, Weinstein’s public flameout has triggered a difficult public conversation. Russia, however, has greeted the situation with a mix of mockery and bemusement — and denial.
In October, Miss Russia 2017 runner-up Ksenia Alexandrova claimed there were no Weinstein-like assaults in the entertainment industry in her country. “I believe that these situations cannot happen in Russia, and for that we have to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his policy,” the beauty contestant said, according to the Moscow Times. “It’s very rare that you hear about such cases in our country and I’m very happy about that.”
Foreign Policy reported last month numerous Russian television commentators have attacked Weinstein’s accusers. “Why did you stay quiet all of these years?” host Mikhail Kozyrev said. “What prevented you at that moment from taking a step back to say, ‘I will never work with this person,’ or ‘Danger!’” Another Russian television personality sympathetically said Weinstein was a “sex machine” who was simply “girl crazy.”
In part, the dismissal of sexual assault in Russia may stem from a cultural reluctance to address the topic. “We’ve developed a mentality of ‘don’t wash your dirty linen in public,’” activist Anastasiya Melnychenko wrote in the Guardian in 2016. “The objectification of women is also rife. In this climate, how do we explain to little girls that they can say no, and that they have the right to their own boundaries. And how do we teach boys that no means no and about the limits of acceptable behaviour?”
But the sentiment has also taken up residence in at the highest levels of Russian law and government. Last year, Putin signed into law a provision that decriminalized domestic abuse for first-time offenders who do not inflict harm requiring hospital treatment. Putin was even criticized in 2006 when he was overheard cracking a rape joke at a news conference.
In his comments on Sunday, Kiselyov — who in the past has said gays and lesbians should have their hearts burned when they die — focused on the rape allegations leveled against Weinstein by Paz de la Huerta. The actress told Vanity Fair earlier this month the producer raped her on two occasions. In both instances, de la Huerta said, she was too frightened to turn Weinstein away from her home when he showed up uninvited. “How dare he [rape her], especially when she invited him a second time?” Kiselyov sarcastically said, according to the Moscow Times.
The Russian commentator also expressed surprise Netflix would fire Kevin Spacey from “House of Cards” after his own round of allegations — further proof all sex in American culture was gone. “Just as there is no masculinity and no femininity,” he said, “there isn’t even anything homosexual. There isn’t anything at all. There’s no human nature, no romantic adventures.”
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