World

Russian Olympic Champion Says Racist Obama Photo Was Work Of A Hacker When It Really Probably Wasn't

Irina Rodnina, a Soviet figure skating legend who lit the Olympic flame in Sochi, tries to distance herself from a controversial tweet. That defense worked so well for Anthony Weiner.

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After a flurry of abuse on Russian Twitter, Rodnina claimed she had been "sent the picture from the U.S." and wrote at the time: "Freedom of speech is freedom! Answer for your own complexes yourself!" She then deleted the tweets.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul condemned her tweet, but the controversy quickly died down in Russia, where casual racism is widespread.

.@IRodnina A wise quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Bigotry is the disease of ignorance." http://t.co/Zj29SJuVhq

Посольство США в РФ@USEmbRu

.@IRodnina A wise quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Bigotry is the disease of ignorance." http://t.co/Zj29SJuVhq

03:14 PM - 14 Sep 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

.@Sapronovas thank you. Outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country

Michael McFaul@McFaul

.@Sapronovas thank you. Outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country

04:58 PM - 14 Sep 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

On Friday, however, the incident caught the attention of the wider public after Rodnina lit the Olympic torch to open the Winter Games in Sochi.

Pool / Reuters

Rodnina and three other ex-Olympian torchbearers, all of whom are members of parliament in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party, also voted for the controversial "gay propaganda law" in June and a ban on adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans the previous winter.

Rodnina finally apologized on Monday...

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

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)

05:11 PM - 10 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

...and employed the "I was hacked" defense previously used by former congressman and sexting scandal star Anthony Weiner.

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

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

10:13 AM - 10 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Two days earlier, however, Rodnina's daughter, HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski, responded to "Twitter hate" by implying the tweet was real.

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

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)

03:01 AM - 8 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Alyona@AlyonaMink

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

03:02 AM - 8 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Minkovski, a former host on Kremlin propaganda channel RT, also immediately retweeted her mother's apology tweets, which were written in a style more reminiscent of Alyona's Twitter feed than her mother's.

Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71

Contact Max Seddon at max.seddon@buzzfeed.com.

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