U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon, an openly gay figure skater, turned down a request from Vice President Mike Pence to meet, USA Today reports.
Pence reached out to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Jan. 17 to set up a meeting with Rippon, who was critical of the choice of Pence to lead the U.S. delegation at the Olympics in PyeongChang, according to the report.
The request reportedly came an hour after Rippon criticized Pence’s selection to USA Today.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon told USA Today’s Christine Brennan.
Pence, an evangelical conservative Christian, has a history of anti-LGBT public stances during his days as governor of Indiana and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2006 as a member of the House, Pence warned of a “societal collapse … following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family” in a speech to fellow House conservatives as part of an attempt to create a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
In 2007, Pence voted against a law banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The flashpoint for Rippon on gay conversion therapy appears to be a statement from Pence’s 2000 campaign website appearing to support therapy attempting to convince gay people to become straight.
“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” the statement read.
Pence’s office responded to the USA Today report Wednesday, denying that he tried to set up a meeting with Rippon. Per Pence’s deputy chief of staff and communications director Jarrod Agen:
“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.”
That statement came after Pence’s office declined to comment on the story before it was published, according to USA Today.
Pence reiterated the statement on Twitter later Wednesday, invoking the divisive and distracting “fake news” rhetoric popularized by his boss, President Donald Trump.
.@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
Rippon would did not confirm nor deny the USA Today report on Thursday with reporters, pointing inquiries to the USOC.
“I don’t want to distract from the competition or make this too much for my competitors and my teammates,” Rippon told reporters after a practice session. “After the competition I’m open to meeting him and having an open conversation. But opening ceremonies are tomorrow and I’ve been really focused.”
This is Rippon’s first Olympics appearance. The 2016 U.S. men’s figure skating champion came out in 2015 and is believed to be the first openly gay U.S. athlete at the winter Olympics.