U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, the first openly gay U.S. athlete to be named to a Winter Olympic team, declined an invitation by Vice President Mike Pence to meet privately before the opening ceremonies in South Korea.
Last month, Rippon said he would not be visiting the White House if invited after the Olympics because he doesn’t think he would be “welcome” as a gay athlete.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Adam Rippon told USA Today. “I’m not buying it.”
“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 said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon said of Pence. “To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
Pence “was so concerned about the criticism” from Rippon “that his staff went to the extraordinary length of asking the U.S. Olympic Committee to set up a conversation between the two — an offer Rippon turned down,” USA Today reported Wednesday.
Openly gay skier Gus Kenworthy told Ellen DeGeneres last week that Pence was a “strange choice” to lead the U.S. delegation at Friday’s opening ceremonies.
“To have somebody leading the delegation that’s directly attacked the LGBTQ community, and a Cabinet in general that just sort of stands against us and has tried to do things to set us back, it just seems like a bad fit,” Kenworthy said.
In January, Rippon told Newsweek that it’s important that he is out and representing the U.S.
“Just being out is important to me, especially in today’s political climate,” Rippon said. “I want to be visible and be a voice for kids. You should embrace who you are. That’s what makes you awesome: not just being gay, but all of the qualities that you have.”
Pence’s staff responded to the athlete’s criticism by requesting Rippon meet with the vice president.
“Yes, there will be countries represented that don’t give rights to their gay citizens,” Rippon said. “But that’s why it’s important that someone like me can go to the Olympics and show people that yes, I’m an out gay athlete, and being gay has nothing to do with who I am as an athlete.”