Olympic contender Adam Rippon isn’t here for Vice President Mike Pence‘s involvement in the 2018 Olympics, and he isn’t interested in accepting a post-Olympics invite to the White House from President Donald Trump, either.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded ‘gay conversion therapy’?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
Rippon, 28, is the 2016 U.S. men’s figure skating champion, and publicly came out in October 2015. As a child growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Rippon was bullied and teased and hopes his story can help other young gay people who may be struggling.
Rippon’s critique of Pence’s support of “conversion therapy,” a discredited practice based on the false idea that gay people can “choose” to be straight, stems from a statement the vice president made on his congressional campaign website in 2000, calling for resources to be given to institutions that help “those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pence’s camp and the White House have continually denied Pence’s support of the practice. Regardless, Pence has a longstanding history of holding anti-LGBTQ beliefs. He argued against same-sex marriage in 2006 and criticized the inclusion of anti-LGBTQ violence as a “hate crime” in 2009. While Pence was governor of Indiana, the state criminalized the application for marriage licenses by same-sex couples in 2013, and he signed a “religious freedom” law in 2016 that critics said allowed LGBTQ discrimination. Earlier in his career, Pence also called for newspapers not to hire gay reporters.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon continued. “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 OK 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.”
In response to Rippon’s criticism, Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah emailed a statement to USA Today, again denying Pence’s support of “conversion therapy.”
“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,” the statement read. “Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”
While Rippon said he’d rather not meet Pence before the figure skating competition, (“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”) he said he may consider meeting Pence after competing, should the opportunity arise.
“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,” Rippon said. Rippon, along with skating star Lindsey Vonn, has said he wouldn’t accept an invitation to Trump’s White House after the Olympics.
Despite his criticism of the current administration, however, Rippon said he will not be protesting the Trump, nor protesting for LGBTQ rights, while at the Olympics.
“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. I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage. I have a lot of respect for this opportunity,” Rippon said. “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.”