'This Week' Transcript: Russian President Vladimir Putin

BILLY JEAN KING, TENNIS LEGEND: Hopefully it will be a watershed moment because of the gay rights and for the LGBT community, bringing it to the forefront. It is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, so I'm very proud of the openly gay – for me personally, if I were still young enough to be going to the Olympics to perform, this would give me such high incentive. I'd be crazed. I'd be like, let's go.

AMY ROBACH: What would you say to Putin?

KING: To Putin?

AMY ROBACH: Yes.

KING: Please change this law. Just be inclusive. Champion everyone.

PUTIN (through translator): The Russian people have their own cultural code, their own traditions. We don't interfere. Don't stick our noses in their life. And we ask that our traditions and culture are treated with the same respect.

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): His position: keep sports and politics separate. And when pressed, Putin pushes back.

PUTIN (through translator): Russia does not criminally prosecute people for being gay, unlike in over one-third of the world's nations. Seventy of the world's nations consider homosexual behavior a crime. Seven out of the 70 use capital punishment for homosexuality. What does it mean? Does it mean we need to cancel any major international sports events in those countries? Probably not.

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): Putin's critics fear the real crackdown will come after Sochi, including proposed legislation threatening to take custody of children away from gay parents. That's why Gessen (ph) and her partner left Russia with their children last month.

MASHA GESSEN (Journalist and LGBT Activist): I would not be surprised if the Olympics went off without a hitch in terms of the anti-gay legislation. Russia doesn't want scandals with (inaudible). So I think we're not going to see any, possibly any incidents during the Olympics. But what happens after the Olympics is I think very scary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with the roundtable. I am going to go to David Remnick first. David, you reported for many years from the Soviet Union, from Moscow. And Putin is clearly doing these interviews because he wants to reassure people, but in some way, he even said at one point off camera, I have a lot of gay friends as well. But in some ways, he can't help himself. He absolutely believes this law is the right thing. Doesn't want to change it. And he even tied it at some point to the need to increase birth rates in Russia.

REMNICK: Well, it's a completely disingenuous answer that he gave you, because this law has given the signal for hate crimes all over the country. Loads of hate crimes, which are horrible. And there's videos of it on Youtube all over the place.

Second of all, it's given the cue to the state media, which is television is the key, to be completely and utterly homophobic. To turn on the television and see Russian Orthodox priests, members of parliament speak in the most disgusting homophobic way possible is completely dispiriting, highly influential, and completely sanctioned by the Kremlin. So one answer is what he says to broadcasters right on the edge of the Olympics, and there were some clemencies that came out as well. But this has had an enormous effect.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hard to believe I think, Mary Matalin, that he'll actually go through with punishing people during the Olympics. They can't risk that.

MATALIN: Yes, and can I just say, I'm so sick of sports and politics. (inaudible), I am not gay, and I know I'm going to get in trouble for this, but all of my gay friends think he looks so buff in his shirtless photos.

(LAUGHTER)

MATALIN: I'm going to say, why is he even talking about this?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He has to talk about it. It's a huge controversy.

CARVILLE: I was involved unsuccessfully in the latest race, contest, for the chair of the International Olympic Committee. (inaudible). I can assure you of this, no country is ever going to get an Olympic games that has anything close to anything kind of a gay law or anything like that. This is one of these things where history is going to move on. They're not going to deal with this again. And so anybody that wants it, if they have got some of these kind of laws, they're going to have to clean them up, because the Olympic Committee before they award this, is going on notice. It's painful for these guys to go through this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other things we see from this are the fears of the terrorist threat as well, and that's now something that accompanies just about every major live event. These fears of a terrorist strike.

NOONAN: Oh, yes. That of course is the great issue that will overwhelm what we have been talking about. I think Putin, he is the head of a country, of an empire, in a way, that's going to be seeing more and more of the sort of thing it saw recently in the former Stalingrad, the Northern Caucuses emanated terrorism. I just think it's going to be a problem for a long time and a real strain for him for a long time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tavis Smiley, Mary says sports and politics shouldn't mix, do you expect to see protests?

SMILEY: I think there will be protests. And I think it was the former California governor who once said that he woke up in the morning to read the sports pages first. Because they told him man's accomplishment rather than his degradation. And now that seems to have switched.

The ultimate irony here is that the games that are supposed to be about all the things that we love and cherish, about what it means to be a human being, are now tarnished by this talk about gay rights and the threat of terrorism. And I think you're right, and it's a great interview you did with him. He's concerned, as he should be, that people aren't going to show up, because they're afraid of what might happen.

REMNICK: The games take place in the world. When Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in 1968, it took place in the world and it had an effect. And this argument is a legitimate argument to have, because the focus is on Russia. And I think it's all for the better.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's the last word. Thank you all, terrific discussion today. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. This week the Pentagon released the names of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

And that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News with David Muir" tonight. I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

END

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