Critics are calling out Russian lawmaker and former Olympic figure skater Irina Rodnina for a racist picture she tweeted Friday of President Barack Obama, his mouth full of food, sitting next to the First Lady with a banana being held up in the foreground.
She followed that post by tweeting to her critics, “Freedom of speech is freedom! Deal with your hangups yourself!"
Rodnina, now the Deputy Head of the Russian State Duma Education Committee, won three gold medals for figure skating in 1972, 1976 and 1980.
The image, since been deleted @IRodnina, went viral Friday after opposition leader Alexi Navalny reposted the image. Navalny said Rodnina was “making a joke,” but others didn’t find it funny.
Russian journalist Tikhon Zyadko responded on Twitter, saying “Duma deputy Irina Rodnina doesn’t hide she is a racist.”
“Maybe this is everyday racism. Maybe it’s that she was badly brought up and has a warped sense of humour,” wrote Aider Muzhdabayev, the deputy editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets Daily. “The main thing is that Rodnina did this, and she doesn’t regret it a bit.”
Rodnina deleted the post Saturday, but maintained that she did nothing wrong. She claimed she didn’t make the image, but that it was “forwarded” to her from the U.S.
She said the tweet, in fact, had boosted her ratings. The federal politician has over 20,000 Twitter followers.