The first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympian, American men’s figure skating champion Adam Rippon, has criticized the selection of Vice President Mike Pence as the leader of the U.S. Olympic delegation to the 2018 games in South Korea, and said he will not meet with the veep.
Rippon expressed his distaste over the choice of Pence due to the VP’s supposed support of “conversion therapy” when he was the Governor of Indiana. Conversion therapy maintains that homosexuals can choose to renounce their predilections and change their source of sexual attraction through therapy. Gay activists have criticized the treatment as a scam brought about from bigotry against their sexual preference.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon toldUSA Today. “I’m not buying it.”
Despite Rippon’s accusation, though, Pence has never spoken specifically in support of conversion therapy, not as Indiana gov. nor as vice president.
Regardless, the 28-year-old Olympian said he plans to refuse to attend any meet-and-greet with Vice President Pence if Pence remains associated with the U.S. delegation to the 2018 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 exclaimed. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”
Rippon also insisted that Pence doesn’t have “a real concept of reality” because he supports President Donald Trump. The skater particularly cited the thus far unproven accusation that Trump referred to several third world nations as “sh**hole countries” in a closed-door meeting on immigration.
The Office of the Vice President released a statement after Rippon spoke out:
The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes. 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
Despite his comments, though, the skater insisted that he won’t use his platform as an Olympian to protest either Pence or Trump, nor will he speak out for gay rights during his time as a competitor.
“No, I’m a U.S. athlete representing my country. I will continue to share my story, but I will participate in no form of protest,” the skater said. “I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage. I have a lot of respect for this opportunity. What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”
Rippon also noted that he might feel disposed to meet with Pence after his time at the games is up.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.