During a special interview with President Barack Obama during ‘The Tonight Show‘ on Tuesday, the host spoke out against Russia for putting in place new laws against homosexuals. Leno compared the current atmosphere for gays in Russia to the persecution of Jews, gays and blacks in Nazi Germany.
“I mean, this seems like Germany: Let’s round up the Jews, let’s round up the gays, let’s round up the blacks,” he said. “I mean, it starts with that. You round up people who you don’t — I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?”
The President responded by speaking out against the discrimination in Russia, saying he has “no patience” for countries that intimidate or harm gays. He also said the ‘persecution’ in Russia happens in other parts of the world as well.
“Now, what’s happening in Russia is not unique,” he said. “When I traveled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians.”
The President also stressed that many countries that will participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics won’t tolerate discrimination against their homosexual athletes.
“…if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it,” he added.
The new Russian laws outlaw the distribution of homosexual “propaganda,” ban same-sex Russian couples from adopting children and prevent even heterosexual couples or single adults who live in countries that have marriage equality from adopting Russian kids. Those who are suspected of being gay can be arrested, prompting concerns about the safety of athletes during the Olympics.
And the passage of these restrictions has seemingly contributed to the President’s choice to forgo his scheduled one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in less than a month.
The White House announced early on Wednesday that the President had cancelled the meeting, scheduled for early September, to coincide with the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg.
“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” the statement reads.
The statement outlines a lack of progress in U.S.-Russia relations on a variety of issues, including arms control, commerce and human rights. It also calls Russia’s decision to grant one-year asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden “disappointing.”
Obama will still participate in the G-20 Summit itself, however, according to the White House statement and the President’s remarks to Leno.