The Vice President of the United States Mike Pence is facing a fresh wave of criticism from an openly gay Olympic figure skater ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. According to anonymous sources at USA Today, Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation at the official opening ceremony this weekend, recently requested a one-on-one meeting with U.S. men’s figure skater Adam Rippon.
However, Rippon reportedly declined Pence’s request.
The tiff between the two men began in January when, during an interview on USA Today, Rippon was asked about Pence’s involvement in the Winter Olympics.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” the 28-year-old athlete replied. “I’m not buying it.”
Pence was said to be upset by the comments, with his press secretary, Alyssa Farah, sending a letter to the popular U.S. television program.
“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” she wrote. “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.”
Last month Rippon clarified that he’d be open to a future dialogue with Pence, saying: “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 continued: “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 says he has also declined an invitation to the White House for a traditional post-Olympic celebration, hosted by President Trump, with renowned skier Lindsey Vonn also declining her invitation. Freeskier Gus Kenworthy, the only other openly gay male athlete to represent the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, recently told Ellen DeGeneres that he agreed Vice President Pence was a “bad fit” for role in the opening ceremony.