In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN, devoted largely to allegations of sinister Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dropped a sound bite that is likely to eclipse everything else he said.
“One last question — a bit cheeky, but I’m going to ask you — Russia had its own Pussy Riot moment. What do you think of Donald Trump’s pussy riot moment?” Amanpour asked.
“Well, I don’t know what this would — English is not my mother tongue, I don’t know if I would sound decent. There are so many pussies around your presidential campaigns on both sides that I prefer not to comment on this,” Lavrov replied, eliciting a priceless reaction from his interviewer.
To clarify the topics Amanpour and Lavrov are pussyfooting around here, Pussy Riot is a Russian girl band noted for courting controversy and picking fights with the government. They were arrested for a February 2012 concert at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, where they sang a song called Punk Prayer that included a great deal of foul language and criticized the Orthodox Church for supporting Vladimir Putin.
The criminal charge leveled against them was for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” not opposition to Putin, although many in Russia felt that was the true reason for their incarceration. Others criticized the religious-hatred law, which has also been controversially invoked against individuals such as the atheist blogger busted for playing Pokemon Go in a cathedral.
They became free-speech celebrities after two of them remained in jail, to eventually be released under an amnesty law in 2014.
The similarity Amanpour sees between any of that and Donald Trump is unclear. Is anyone who runs into trouble for using vulgar language experiencing a “Pussy Riot moment?” Or are the women who have accused Trump of inappropriate behavior supposed to be Pussy Riot in this joke?
Despite his humble protest of having limited familiarity with English idiom, Lavrov’s use of the term “pussy” was much less ambiguous.
For what it’s worth, the rest of the interview included Lavrov denying allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election, although he said it was “flattering” that U.S. officials think Russia has such capability.
“It’s flattering, of course, to get this kind of attention — for a regional power, as President Obama called us some time ago. Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the presidential debate,” said Lavrov, needling Obama for his former dismissal of Moscow as a serious global adversary.