White House “Not 100% Sure” Donald Trump Knows About Chechnya Anti-Gay Purge

"I do not know, I was not part of that meeting."

World leaders from Angela Merkel to Theresa May have called out the atrocities being committed against gay people in Chechnya, but there’s still be no word from Donald Trump.

Turns out that may be because he doesn’t know about them.

Nearly two months after the first reports surfaced that homosexuals were being detained, beaten and in some cases murdered in the republic, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders confessed she didn’t know if Trump has been informed about the situation.

At a White House press conference this week, she was asked why there was no mention of the purge in Trump’s recent meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Is the reason why it wasn’t included in the readout because the president is not informed about reports of anti-gay violence in Chechnya?” asked the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson.

“Ah, look, I mean a lot of times there are parts of the conversation that aren’t specifically included in a readout… but I’m not aware, I have not had that conversation,” Huckabee Sanders replied. “So I do not know, I was not part of that meeting. I cannot speak to every detail and I would have to refer you to the readout on the specifics of what I know was discussed.”

Asked if Trump had been brief at all on Chechnya, she mumbled, “That is something I would have to get back to you on. I am not 100% sure.”

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis called it “shocking” that the administration didn’t have a clear picture of the crisis, especially when U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has already condemned it. “It seems President Trump is only aware of news that includes his own name,” Ellis added.

A gay rights activist waves a damaged rainbow flag during a gay pride in St. Petersburg on July 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA        (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Thankfully there has been some good news, as the Russian LGBT Network reports its helped at least 40 gay men escape the region.

“The first thing for us to do is, of course, to evacuate them from Chechnya, like, to other parts of Russia,” a representative told NPR. “But we are also working to evacuate them, to relocate them to—out of Russia because for most of them it’s just deadly dangerous to stay in Russia because some of them are already hunted by their relatives outside of Chechnya.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery