Openly gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has made statements indicating that he would skip meetings with President Mike Pence, who is currently in attendance at the event in PyeongChang. Rippon specifically noted Vice President Mike Pence's stances on LGBTQ issues when discussing his potential abstention from certain proceedings, specifically citing the politician's commitment to ex-gay therapy as his reason for skipping.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said to USA Today. “I’m not buying it.”
Pence has a long history of opposition to the LGBTQ community, both in his home state and in his role as Vice President. Donald Trump has previously stated that Pence wants to "hang" all the gays in the country. Pence had also slashed funding for HIV testing sites while serving as Governor, causing a severe outbreak of the virus in Indiana. He also allegedly previously backed ex-gay or conversion therapy, a form of "treatment" that seeks to change the sexual orientation of person.
Conversion therapy has been widely debunked by every reputable psychological and psychiatric association: the American Psychological Association has stated that "there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated."
“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 continued. “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."
“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes," retorted Pence's press secretary Alyssa Farah in an emailed statement. "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.”
Rippon slightly walked back his stance in a later interview: “If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said. “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. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
According to the New York Times, Pence has since characterized reports about his ideological disagreements with Rippon as #FAKENEWS.
USA Today had indicated that Pence had tried to organize a special conversation with Rippon. This was also denied by Pence's communications director, Jarrod Agen, who described the report as “just not accurate ... VP’s office did not try to arrange a meeting with Mr. Rippon at Olympics.”
USA Today stands by their account of the events, with writer Christine Brennan saying the “report is true and therefore will not be corrected.”
“We were contacted by his office and I think the objective was to have a conversation with Adam,” said Rippon's agent, David Baden. The request did not come directly to him or Mr. Rippon but “went through the various proper channels and that message was then sent to us."
According to NPR, Rippon and the United States team scored a bronze metal in the 2018 Olympics on Monday. He continues to amass a following on social media.
Rippon is being considered the first openly gay American man to qualify to compete in the Winter Games.
[Photo: Twitter @adaripp]