- Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters
- Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, who is openly gay, turned down a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence after publicly criticizing Pence’s record on LGBTQ rights.
- Pence, who will lead the US delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, reached out to Rippon after reading his criticism, according to a USA Today report.
Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, the first openly gay athlete to win a spot on the US Winter Olympics team, turned down a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence after publicly criticizing Pence’s record on LGBTQ rights, according to a Wednesday USA Today report.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon said last month, referencing the controversial and scientifically discredited practice that seeks to alter an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pence, who will lead the US delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, reportedly reached out to Rippon after reading his critical remarks last month, two sources told USA Today, but the skating champion refused to engage with him.
Rippon said multiple times that he did not want to engage with the vice president before competing in the Olympics, but that he was open to a discussion after the games.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon told USA Today.
He went on, “I’m not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States. If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation.”
But Jarrod Agen, the vice president’s communications director, denied that Pence ever reached out to Rippon.
“The USA Today report is false and should be corrected. The Vice President’s office did not reach out to set up a conversation with Mr. Rippon,” Agen said. “As we’ve said before, the Vice President is supporting all the U.S. athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win medals.”
Pence’s staff called Rippon’s accusation that Pence advocated for conversion therapy “misinformed” in a statement last month.
“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, told USA Today. “This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”
Pence, an evangelical Christian, has long opposed same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ individuals, and has argued that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”
While Pence’s spokespeople have denied that he supports conversion therapy, which is banned in several states, a statement on an archived version of his 2000 congressional campaign website appears to indicate his support for the practice.
“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” he wrote.
Rippon, who has talked about being bullied and teased as a kid growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, argued that Pence “doesn’t stand for anything” that he believes in.
“He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up,” he said.