‘Celebrities over veterans?’ Backlash rolls in, Marine Paul Whelan’s family speaks out over Russian prisoner trade

As WNBA player Brittney Griner makes her way back to the United States, retired Marine Paul Whelan’s family spoke out about their “public disappointment.”

Whelan, who was convicted on dubious charges in Russia, has been imprisoned for the last four years. His family was warned in advance about the news Griner would be returning home instead of their own loved one. In response, Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, released a statement on the prisoner swap.

“I am so glad that Brittney Griner is on her way home. As a family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holiday,” the statement reads. “The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

But despite believing the swap was the right call, the Whelan family is still suffering the loneliness of having a family member imprisoned overseas on a questionable conviction.

“This time, US government officials let us know that Paul would be left behind [12/7/22], unlike last April when they left him. That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul. I do not know if he is aware yet, although he will certainly learn from Russian media,” the impassioned letter continues.

Whelan’s brother went on to express his disappointment that the government continues to act on behalf of everyone except the retired Marine who gave so much to serve his country, and many on social media feel the same way:

Responses went far beyond the Whelan family, however, with many critics calling it an injustice:

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