Mike Pence Urges Gay US Olympian Not to Believe 'Fake News' About 'Gay Conversion' Support
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has sought to reassure U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, who is openly gay, that he's supporting all athletes at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, following the resurfacing of reports that claim Pence believes in "gay conversion" therapy.
"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!" Pence wrote on Twitter on Wednesday in a message to Rippon.
In a previous tweet he added: "Headed to the Olympics to cheer on #TeamUSA. One reporter trying to distort 18 year 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!"
Pence was referencing a recently resurfaced report from 2000, where his congressional campaign website stated: "Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."
As USA Today reports, LGBT activists have for years attempted to use the comments to claim that Pence, an evangelical Christian, supports gay conversion therapy.
The former governor of Indiana also attracted controversy from LGBT groups for signing the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act while in office, which sought to provide religious freedom protections for business owners.
The resurfacing of the gay conversion claims upset Rippon, however, who last month was asked by reporters how he felt about the vice president leading the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympic games in February.
"You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" the figure skater responded at the time. "I'm not buying it."
Rippon also told USA Today that Pence was hypocritical for espousing Christian values while standing by President Donald Trump.
"If he's OK with what's being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries," Rippon claimed, "I think he should really go to church."
Conflicting information followed in the media over whether Pence requested a meeting with Rippon.
The vice president's office sent out a statement earlier this week clarifying: "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."
Rippon has since sought to downplay the public spat.
"I don't want to make this too much for my competitors and for my teammates," Rippon said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. "I'm just kind of focused on the competition. The opening ceremony is tomorrow. I don't mind talking about it but I don't want to distract my teammates."
As for whether he would be willing to meet Pence in the future, he said that "after the competition I'll have an open conversation," but for now he's focused on representing his country at the games.