First, let me start by saying our U.S. Olympians deserve our awe and respect. They train in their specialized sports for years to compete for and represent our country on the world stage.
Sadly, on the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, one figure skater's spat with Vice President Mike Pence is getting more attention than the talent about to be showcased on Team USA. Adam Rippon is an openly gay athlete competing in the Winter Games, and he has not shied from offering his opinion on Pence being selected to lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony, citing his history of anti-LGBT policies.
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, legislation that allowed businesses to utilize hiring practices that conformed to their religious beliefs. Critics condemned it as discriminatory, for it allowed employers to avoid offering services to gay individuals. It was also reported that Pence once supported gay conversion therapy during his 2000 congressional run in Indiana. In January, USA Today asked Rippon for his thoughts on Pence being selected for the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony, considering his politics. Rippon called Pence a hypocrite for trying to enforce such policies and standing by President Trump's often incendiary language while claiming to be a Christian.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" Rippon said. "I’m not buying it.”
Pence's office reportedly reached out to the athlete for a conversation, but Rippon declined, noting it would be too distracting. He's worked too hard and too long for this moment.
"I don't want to make this too much for my competitors and for my teammates," Rippon said Thursday. "I'm just kind of focused on the competition. The opening ceremony is tomorrow. I don't mind talking about it but I don't want to distract my teammates."
Pence rejected the USA Today's premise and reached out to Rippon directly.
Headed to the Olympics to cheer on #TeamUSA. One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old nonstory to sow seeds of division. We won’t let that happen! #FAKENEWS. Our athletes are the best in the world and we are for ALL of them! #TEAMUSA— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 8, 2018
.@Adaripp I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 8, 2018
Rippon's mom spoke with CNN Thursday, telling Chris Cuomo that her son told her he had a "responsibility to give figure skating my best" and he can't do that when he's having "side conversations about different things."
But, isn't he the one who started it?
Rippon did say he may meet with Pence after the Games, but only if he can bring people who have been negatively impacted by his policies. He has said matter-of-factly, however, that he's not going to the White House if Team USA is invited.
The Pyeongchang Olympics take place Feb. 9-25.