Figure skater Adam Rippon is less than pleased with the choice of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, and he won’t be lining up to shake his hand.
Rippon, who is believed to be the first openly gay man to qualify for the Winter Olympics, spoke with USA Today and he didn’t hold back.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
Rippon is referencing a statement made on Pence’s congressional campaign website in 2000.
Pence argued that the Ryan White Care Act, providing funding for HIV/AIDS patients, should only be reauthorized “only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Rippon added that he has no intention of shaking hands with Pence during the traditional meet-and-greet.
“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.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon said. “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 okay 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.”
He added that he might be willing to meet with him after his event, where a more direct conversation might be possible.
“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.”
Still, he doesn’t sound too sure.
“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.”
He has also said that he has no interest in attending a White House event for Olympic athletes.
Rippon praised former president Barack Obama for having openly gay athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow serve on the U.S. delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi.
“I think the move that President Obama made was very poignant and it was right in the midst of the huge controversy of gay propaganda being illegal in Russia,” he said.
Rippon said he has no intention of making a protest, but will instead allow his presence to speak for itself, in a similar manner to the gay athletes leading the delegation in Sochi.
“No, I’m a U.S. athlete representing my country,” he said. “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. 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.”