- The Magazine
An outspoken anti-LGBTQ politician in Lithuania is claiming he’s a victim of sabotage after he was captured next to a shirtless man while on a Zoom call discussing official state business.
Lithuanian Member of Parliament Petras Grazulis was in the middle of a briefing on COVID-19 when video switched from a document on the screen to showing the top of Grazulis’s head. Over his shoulder, a topless man could be seen.
The two were staring at the screen before it quickly cut back to the document, with rummaging and squeaking noises in the background.
Video of the moment was broadcast live on the parliament’s website, and then quickly shared online, according to the news outlet LRT.
Some in the Lithuanian press pointed out the possible irony of Grazulis, who is best known for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, especially concerning his opposition to Pride events in the capital city of Vilnius, being seen next to a topless man.
In 2012, he suggested that all gay people should leave Lithuania, and in 2013, sent a pair of men’s pants with a zipper in in the seat to local LGBTQ group as a “present,” according to the Lithuanian Gay League, a national LGBTQ rights organization.
Vytautas Juozapaitis, the chairman of the committee on which Grazulis sits, who was on the Zoom call, warned that members of parliament, when working from home, need to be careful about allowing others to be around them, because of the potentially sensitive official information that is being discussed in committee meetings. He also questioned why someone in the home would be “half-naked during working hours.”
“Of course, you could say it’s a person’s private life, but he is connected to a Seimas (parliament) meeting,” he was quoted as saying.
Jouzapaitis went on to say that the most likely explanation was that the shirtless man was a family member helping Grazulis with technical computer issues. In fact, that was the explanation that Grazulis initially offered, referring to the man as his “son.”
But Grazulis later changed his story, claiming the man was Andrius Tapinas, a journalist who Grazulis claims has been “persecuting him for a long time.”
According to the Daily Mail, the man in the video bears no resemblance to Tapinas, but Grazulis now insists the journalist had virtually altered his appearance or the video to seem like he was standing next to him.
“He’s haunting me everywhere, it’s no wonder that he got here,” Grazulis said, according to the local news outlet 15min.
Unfortunately, the politician’s outlandish explanation seems to be gaining traction, with his right-wing supporters posting speculations and conspiracy theories about the journalist, billionaire George Soros, and a plot by anti-populist forces to embarrass Grazulis on the politician’s Facebook page.
Grazulis’s Zoom call has drawn comparisons to the recent story of József Szájer, a Hungarian member of European Parliament and co-founder of the archconservative Fidesz Party who has close ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Like Grazulis, Szájer was also known for his support for anti-LGBTQ legislation in his home country, even boasting of having personally rewritten Hungary’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
But he ultimately resigned his position and left the party after being stopped by police in Brussels for allegedly fleeing from a gay bar where police found a 25-man orgy taking place, in violation of local COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!