NBC sportscaster Bob Costas is defending his treatment of Russia and President Vladimir Putin against conservative critics who say he portrayed the former KGB operative in a positive light during the Olympics.
Appearing Monday on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor,"
that the whole issue had been taken "entirely out of context" and that "this is a controversy only for those looking for the most flimsy pretext for a controversy."
He agreed with host Bill O'Reilly that Putin is a "villain."
Some conservative websites and talk radio hosts, including PJ Media
, were critical of Costas for what they thought was praise when he said in a profile of Putin, during the Winter Olympics in Russia, that he had helped broker a chemical weapons deal with Syria and brought Iran to the nuclear negotiations talks.
But Costas noted that he immediately afterward called Putin an autocrat.
"We talked about these being Putin's games," Costas said. "The 1984 Olympics weren't Ronald Reagan's games; they were Peter Ueberroth's. The '96 Olympics were Billy Payne's, not Bill Clinton's. The 2002 Olympics were Mitt Romney's, not George Bush's."
Costas said that during his on-air discussions, he noted that Putin was trying to use the Games to "burnish the image of a man and a regime whose image does not deserve to be burnished."
Costas noted that he had even grilled Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, about why the Olympics were even held in places such as Russia and China, both of which are still carrying out human-rights abuses.
O'Reilly and his frequent guest media critic Bernie Goldberg defended Costas from the attacks in mid-February, Mediaite reported
Putin has sent Russia's army into the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine and threatened to send troops into the capital, Kiev, after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power last week.
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