Family of Former Marine Imprisoned in Russia Says Biden Only Cares About Jailed Celebrity Basketball Player - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Family of Former Marine Imprisoned in Russia Says Biden Only Cares About Jailed Celebrity Basketball Player
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Brittney Griner speaks to the press in 2015 in her first interview after she was arrested on allegations of domestic violence (FOX 10 Phoenix/YouTube)

The brother and sister of Paul Whelan, a former Marine sentenced to serve 16 years of hard labor in Russia in what the State Department has labeled a wrongful detention, are calling out President Joe Biden for giving greater attention to the plight of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who pleaded guilty Thursday to drug charges in Russia.

On Wednesday, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Griner’s family to “reassure” them that the administration is fighting for her release “as soon as possible,” a White House press release said.

Whelan siblings Elizabeth and David Whelan went on the record with their outrage.

“It suggests,” said David Whelan, “the only way to get the White House’s attention, under President Trump or President Biden, is to have celebrity and wealth and resources that most wrongful detainees do not have.”

“I don’t begrudge Ms. Griner and her supporters their success in getting the president’s attention while he ignores so many other families,” he added.

Elizabeth Whelan said that she was “crushed. If he wants to talk about securing Paul’s release, he needs to be talking to the Whelans! What are we to think?!” she said.

“I do want his staff to understand,” she told the Detroit News, “that there are many other detainee families who would also like this personal involvement in their cases … and that we can’t be expected not to feel concerned when the attention to families is so uneven.”

The call to the Griner family came after Cherelle Griner said in a CBS News interview Tuesday that Biden needed to do more to help Brittney and that he had not called the family.

Brittney Griner, a successful basketball player who gained increased attention in 2020 after she refused to be on the court while the national anthem was played, has received wall-to-wall media coverage for her detention in Russia, which came after she was detained for carrying cannabis-derived oil cartridges and charged with drug smuggling. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

A spokesperson for the law firm representing Griner said Thursday: “Ms. Griner pleads guilty. She claims that she did not intend to commit a crime.”

The Biden administration says that Griner is “wrongfully detained” under “intolerable circumstances.” U.S. officials made that judgment unusually quickly, as such a determination is typically made after a trial.

Paul Whelan was arrested on espionage charges in December 2018 while staying at a Russian hotel. He was convicted in what U.S. officials said was an unfair trial. Whelan has maintained that he is innocent of the charges and was in Russia as a tourist.

Whelan’s family members say they have done everything they can to get him home, including 40 media interviews in recent months and nearly 20 visits by Elizabeth Whelan to Capitol Hill to speak with lawmakers. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Whelan family that his case remains a priority, according to David Whelan.

Despite the efforts of both families to free their loved ones and garner the attention of U.S. officials, it’s unclear whether any progress has been made, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made relations between U.S. and Russia more fraught.

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