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Rippon criticizes Pence as US Olympic delegation leader: report

2 min

Washington (AFP)

Adam Rippon, believed to be the first openly gay US Olympian, criticized the White House choice of US Vice President Mike Pence as delegation leader to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to USA Today.

"You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" Rippon told the newspaper. "I'm not buying it."

Rippon, the 2016 US figure skating champion, was selected for his first Olympic squad after placing fourth at the US championships earlier this month.

Rippon, 28, said he would prefer not to meet Pence as traditionally done by US athletes and delegation leaders ahead of the opening ceremonies. Team figure skating medal commitments could preclude such a meeting anyway.

"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," Rippon told USA Today.

Pence's perceived stance on conversion in the gay community comes from a 2000 website statement in which he supported resources for "institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."

A statement from Pence's press secretary sent to USA Today and The Los Angeles Times said in part, "This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the US athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang."

Rippon also had choice words for US President Donald Trump and his recent insulting remarks toward Haiti and African nations.

"I don't think he has a real concept of reality," Rippon said of Pence. "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.

"Mike Pence doesn't stand for anything that I really believe in."

Rippon said he would not attend a post-Games event at the White House, saying, "I don't think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up."

Rippon plans no protest at the Olympics.

"I have a lot of respect for this opportunity," he 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."

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