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The 2022 Winter Olympics got off to a politically charged start on Friday when Beijing tapped a Uyghur athlete to participate in the opening ceremonies, and House Republicans accused NBC News of “spewing the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda.”
Beijing kicked off the Games with a “pared-back but visually stunning opening ceremony and a defiant message to the world leaders boycotting it,” NBC reported, noting that President Xi Jinping officially declared the 2022 Winter Olympics open after a short snowflake-themed show emphasizing youth and “ordinary people,” and a display of fireworks.
“The final step was to deliver the ceremonial flame, a moment that often carries symbolic weight-based in part on who is selected for the task,” the network reported. “Chinese officials chose two athletes, one of whom was Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a Uyghur cross-country skier from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.”
Bear in mind the U.S. initiated a diplomatic boycott of the Games over the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority. Beijing has denied persistent allegations of genocide against the largely Muslim community.
“This moment is quite provocative, it’s a statement from the Chinese President Xi Jinping to choose an athlete from the Uyghur minority,” NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie said during the opening ceremonies. “An in-your-face response to those Western nations, including the U.S., who have called this Chinese treatment of that group genocide and diplomatically boycotted these games.”
WATCH: @SavannahGuthrie calls a reported Uyghur co-lighting the Olympic flame, chosen by Xi Jinping, “an in-your-face response to those Western nations, including the U.S., who have called this Chinese treatment of that group genocide and diplomatically boycotted these games.” pic.twitter.com/NBRtIOROJt
— Jackson Richman (@jacksonrichman) February 4, 2022
While the spin was subtle there, NBC contributor Andrew Browne, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, was a little more direct.
“It’s worth remembering that while Western countries may be boycotting these Olympics over human rights issues, China styles itself as a champion of the developing world, and it has plenty of support in countries from Africa to Latin America where its investments are building up local economies,” Browne said.
This being a reference to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure development strategy in these regions.
NBC last month: “We understand that there are some difficult issues regarding the host nation, so our coverage will provide perspective on China’s place in the world and the geopolitical context in which these Games are being held.”
This is what they meant? https://t.co/dVovshPyyT
— Joseph A. Wulfsohn (@JosephWulfsohn) February 4, 2022
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee slammed the network for its coverage of the opening ceremonies.
“NBC is spewing the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda during the Olympics. Democrats are passing a ‘China’ bill that doesn’t actually hold the CCP accountable. Americans know this: No one was tougher on China than President Trump!” read a tweet from the group’s official Twitter account.
NBC is spewing the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda during the Olympics.
Democrats are passing a “China” bill that doesn’t actually hold the CCP accountable.
Americans know this:
No one was tougher on China than President Trump!
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) February 4, 2022
Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor, responded to the opening ceremony to remind his followers, “China is crushing freedom in Hong Kong, threatening invasion in Taiwan, and wiping out a minority population. All of the decorative laser-beamed snowflakes in the world will not cover up that reality.”
He had plenty more to say:
…For many it will hardly answer the objections to the games any more than having a Jewish athlete carry the flame in Munich games in 1936 would have been a redeeming moment.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) February 4, 2022
The online response to the story was intense… here’s a sampling of some of those responses from Twitter:
As opening ceremonies commence remember the Uyghur people are being tortured, raped, and sterilized in Chinese concentration camps. We are giving a country committing genocide the biggest propaganda victory it could ask for.
Really makes you wonder if the world meant #NeverAgain
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 4, 2022
As China parades out minority groups it is oppressing, @NBC continues presenting it (misleadingly) as just a US concern:
“The Biden administration cited ongoing human rights abuses by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs… as the reason for the diplomatic boycott.”
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) February 4, 2022
It might not be the summer olympics, but NBC is still doing mental gymnastics to justify *literal* GENOCIDE https://t.co/NwIArtuTwY
— Buddy Carter (@RepBuddyCarter) February 4, 2022
NBC is an absolute disgrace. https://t.co/oU21MlEQYx
— Andrew Wagner (@andrewwagner) February 4, 2022
— Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) February 4, 2022
NBC already completely embarrassing itself and we’re only like an hour into this https://t.co/6OwZyyS7Jf
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) February 4, 2022
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