Adam Rippon is focusing on his upcoming stint at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and Mike Pence is hoping that the rest of the country will do the same following reports that Rippon recently turned down a meeting with the vice president.
On Wednesday, USA Today reported that the U.S. Olympic figure skater was invited to have a one-on-one conversation with Pence following comments he made about the vice president back in January. Rippon allegedly declined.
In response to the story, Pence took to Twitter Wednesday to express his support for the U.S. Olympics team and specifically, Rippon, and to denounce the original USA Today piece.
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
"Headed to the Olympics to cheer on #TeamUSA," he tweeted. "One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old non story 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."
"I want you to know we are FOR YOU," he continued, tagging Rippon's Twitter handle. "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!"
In January, Rippon was asked by a USA Today reporter about what he thought about Pence's ceremonial role of leading the U.S. delegation at the Olympic opening ceremony.
"You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" the athlete was quoted as saying in the January 17th story. "I'm not buying it.” Rippon went on to note that he would not "go out of [his] way" to meet with Pence, who has "gone out of [his] way to not only show that [he isn't] a friend of a gay person but that [he thinks] that they're sick."
Following the publication of the initial article, Pence reportedly had his office reach out to Rippon to chat. Jarrod Agen, the vice president's communications director, released a statement following USA Today's Wednesday story, denying that the invitation was ever extended.
"The USA Today report is false and should be corrected," the statement read. "The vice president's office did not reach out to set up a conversation with Mr. Rippon. As we've said before, the Vice President is supporting all the U.S. athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win medals. But this story is just not accurate."
Rippon publicly came out as gay in 2015; his reference to gay conversion therapy refers to a 2000 statement on Pence’s congressional campaign website that advocated for Congress to reauthorize a law funding HIV/AIDS treatment – in particular, by directing funds toward "those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."
(Pence's press secretary, Alyssa Farah, denied that Pence has ever supported conversation therapy, telling People in a statement back in January, "The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact.")
Rippon did note in the January article that he would be open to meeting Pence after his event, however.
"If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I'm finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation," he 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."