Pair of GOP Senators Press NBCU Not to Air China Olympics

Republican Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) have asked NBCU to join their push to get the 2022 Olympics moved from China and, if that doesn't happen, to refuse to air or stream the games. 

That came in a joint letter to NBCU president Steve Burke and NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel, which the senators tweeted out: 

See more

Sens. Hawley and Scott said the the International Olympic Committee should not have allowed a Communist regime with an "abysmal record on human rights" to host a global sporting event, in the process "placing profits over principles and insuring that China can be accepted into the international system." They said NBC had a moral responsibility not to do the same.  

They argue China poses a threat to athletes and tourists. "The 2020 Olympic Games in Beijing will provide the Chinese government with access to a global array of dignitaries, athletes, corporations and government entities," all of whom they argued can and would be surveilled.  

"If Communist China continues to persecute religious minorities, forcibly harvest organs of innocent civilians, oppress the people of Hong Kong, spy on civilians and imprison political dissidents, they should forfeit their rights to host an event that is supposed to bring the world together," the senators wrote. "We urge NBC to stand with us and request that the IOC re-bid the 2022 Olympics or refuse to air the 2022 games. 

An NBCU spokesperson was not available at press time for comment.

Scott, who has said China is the biggest threat to the U.S., has been calling for moving the Olympics for at least a couple of months, telling NBCU-owned CNBC in October that “Until you become a legitimate country that is going to respect human rights and respect things you agree to, we’re going to quit doing business with you."

Hawley, a member of the armed services committee, has also raised red flags (with yellow stars on them) about the threat of China, including its technology in 5G networks he says could be used to spy on the U.S.

Related: Sen. Hawley Targets Tech Exports to China 

There is precedent for NBC pulling the plug on Olympic telecasts, but that were the games that the U.S. refused to participate in.

The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow over the then Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. NBC had the rights to the games, but chose not to broadcast them, instead airing highlights in various newscasts and other programming. 

The U.S. did choose to participate in the 1936 games, then wound up debunking the Aryan superiority theories of Nazi Germany on a world stage thanks to Jesse Owens' four gold medals. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.