U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon slammed the White House’s selection of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the country’s delegation at the Winter Games in South Korea next month, explaining the former governor “doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” the figure skater asked. “I’m not buying it.”
Pence, along with Second Lady Karen Pence, was selected by the White House to lead the U.S. delegation at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang from Feb. 9-25.
Olympians typically meet with the U.S. delegation during a traditional meet-and-greet leading up to the opening ceremony on Feb. 9.
Rippon, who might have to skip the event to compete with the U.S. figure skating team, said that he “would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody” before an event, “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.”
The vice president has been at odds with the LGBTQ community since signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law as governor of Indiana, which critics claimed encouraged discrimination against gay people.
Rippon told the newspaper he “doesn’t think [Pence] has a real concept of reality.”
“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,” Rippon said. “If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘s---holes,' I think he should really go to church."
Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, told USA Today that Rippon’s accusation that the vice president supports gay conversion therapy “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’s deputy chief of staff, Jarred Agen, previously said in a statement that Pence is traveling to the Games “to reinforce the strong U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula and send a clear message of American resolve to the North Korean regime.”
Rippon clarified to the paper that he has no interest in protesting anything during the Olympic Games, but said if he were to have the opportunity to meet Pence after the Games, “there might be a possibility to have an open conversation. 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.”
The Olympian added that former President Barack Obama’s selection of choosing openly gay athletes to represent the U.S. delegation at the opening and closing ceremonies “was very poignant,” noting, “it was right in the midst of the huge controversy of gay propaganda being illegal in Russia.”
The upcoming Games will be Rippon’s first time competing with the Olympic team.