By Justin Sink - 07/17/13 05:26 PM EDT
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday refused to say whether the U.S. might boycott the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if authorities there grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Pressed if a boycott was actually on the table, Carney said he "didn't suggest it was," but refused to categorically rule out skipping the games.
"I refer you to the senator who threw out this suggestion. We're focused on resolving this matter in a way that is in the interest of the United States and in the interest of U.S.-Russia relations," Carney said.
Carney went on to admit that "yeah," it would be a bad idea to boycott the games but said that it was not "an issue right now."
"You are talking about an event that is a year and a half away … a lawmaker put it out there," he said. "We're not focused on that. "
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill on Wednesday that the U.S. should consider boycotting the games if Russia granted the asylum request, which Snowden officially filed on Tuesday.
“I would. I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,” Graham said about a possible boycott.
“It might help because what they’re doing is outrageous,” Graham added. “We certainly haven’t reset our relationship with Russia in a positive way. At the end of the day, if they grant this guy asylum, it’s a breach of the rule of law as we know it and is a slap in the face to the United States.”
The proposal has drawn criticism from other Republicans and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“I love Sen. Graham. We’ve been close friends for 20 years, but I think he’s dead wrong,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who’ve been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”
U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson Patrick Sandusky told NBC News in a statement that "Olympic boycotts do not work."
"Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict," Sandusky said.
"It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime. It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most. While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests."
Carney emphasized Wednesday, "We are in a situation where we are working with Russia to resolve this matter."
"We are engaged in conversations with the Russian government … about our view that Mr. Snowden should be expelled and returned to the United States where he has been charged with serious felonies," Carney said.
"And that is a conversation that is ongoing. What we say to the Russians privately is what we say publicly."