DeSantis Official Defends Qatar for Banning LGTBQ Pride at World Cup

Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' reelection campaign, has defended World Cup host Qatar banning LGBTQ attire.

The Twitter discussion was sparked by football writer Grant Wahl, who tweeted a selfie of himself wearing a rainbow-colored T-shirt prior to entering the stadium Monday to watch the United States take on Wales.

"You have to change your shirt," a security guard reportedly told Wahl. "It's not allowed."

Multiple Wales fans posted similar sentiments on Twitter, saying their rainbow-colored bucket hats were confiscated.

Dr. Nayef bin Nahar, described as an outspoken Qatari academic, replied to Wahl saying he was "proud" of his nation's response.

"I don't know when will the westerners realize that their values aren't universal," Nahar tweeted. "There are other cultures with different values that should be equally respected. Let's not forget that the West is not the spokesperson for humanity."

Pushaw then responded to Nahar, saying she doesn't know why it's "so hard for liberals to understand."

"As an American, my values are different from your values...but the thing is, I do not travel to your country and expect your people to change and conform to my values," Pushaw tweeted.

The religion and laws of Qatar were no secret to anyone prior to the World Cup, she added, saying Wahl "knew what to expect when he made the decision to visit Qatar."

"If he wanted to make a point about LGBT rights, he could have boycotted, but that wouldn't have gotten as much attention," she said.

Qatar LGBTQ World Cup Ron DeSantis Pride
British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell (second from right) attends a protest outside Qatar's Embassy in London on November 19, ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Recent events at the games involving LGBTQ clothing and individuals have reignited concerns. ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images

One Twitter user told Pushaw that Qatar "promised to allow openly LGBT individuals and religious freedom and reneged on both."

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said before the event started that "everyone will be welcome to the tournament, regardless of their origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality."

Pushaw acknowledged she was unaware and assumed that the conservative Muslim country's rules were already in place.

"If they promised something else to attendees & reneged ...that is wrong!" she added.

Qatar has been a source of controversy as the host of the FIFA World Cup since before the tournament began.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called out FIFA for ignoring alleged human rights abuses, including the exploitation of migrant workers who helped build stadiums, hotels and an airport to get the country ready over the past decade.

The Guardian reported in January 2021 that over 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka died in Qatar since it was picked as a host site in 2011.

"The systematic abuse and exploitation of migrant workers who delivered this World Cup for Qatar over the last 12 years has undoubtedly tarnished the tournament in the eyes of many football fans," Ella Knight, migrants' labor rights researcher at Amnesty International, told Newsweek ahead of the games.

Infantino tried to push such issues aside, urging all 32 participating World Cup countries to "focus on the football."

Last Saturday, Infantino attempted to quell concerns during a press conference in Doha by showing perceived solidarity among various groups—some of them marginalized.

"Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker....I am the son of migrant workers. My parents were working very, very hard, in very, very difficult conditions. Not in Qatar—Switzerland," Infantino said.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver doesn't buy FIFA's statements, calling the organization "a cartel-like group of scumbags and assorted criminals who occasionally put on soccer matches."

"Qatar wasn't just a surprising choice, it was logically inexplicable," Oliver said.

Newsweek reached out to Pushaw and Wahl for comment.