Mar 5, 2024 - World

Speaker Johnson invites Gershkovich family to State of the Union

Evan Gershkovich

Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has invited the parents of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned in Russia, to attend President Biden's State of the Union address on Thursday.

Why it matters: March 29 is the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest by Russian authorities on charges of espionage. Both the Wall Street Journal and the 32-year-old journalist vehemently deny the allegations, and the U.S. government considers him wrongfully detained.

What they're saying: "We are grateful to Speaker Johnson for inviting us to attend the State of the Union and for providing the opportunity to highlight Evan's wrongful detention," Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich said in a statement to the Journal.

  • "We're also grateful to President Biden for his continued work on Evan's behalf. Evan is an American, and he was doing his job as a journalist. He is most importantly a beloved son and brother, and we want him home."

Johnson said in his own statement: "By hosting Evan's parents, Congress will shine a spotlight on the unjust detention of their son."

  • "The United States must always stand for freedom of the press around the world, especially in places like Russia, where it is under assault. The Administration must bring Evan home."

The big picture: Presidents and members of Congress typically invite guests to the State of the Union to raise awareness for causes, policies and inspiring or tragic stories.

  • Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and other bipartisan members of Congress are jointly hosting 17 relatives of Americans killed or held hostage by Hamas.
  • First lady Jill Biden has invited Kate Cox, a Texas mother forced to seek an emergency abortion outside of the state, to attend Thursday's address.
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