As the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for the winter Olympics, figure skater Adam Rippon has a lot of things on his plate right now — chief among them, prepping for his performances in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
One item that won’t make his to-do list? Meeting Vice President Mike Pence.
Rippon made waves last month for blasting Pence for his bigoted views on LGBTQ issues after it was announced the vice president would be leading the U.S. delegation in the Games’ opening ceremony on Feb. 9.
“You mean Mike Pence — the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
The vice president has been under fire from LGBTQ rights advocates for once supporting so-called “gay conversion therapy” — a dangerous practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation. Pence has denied ever endorsing the practice. Yet, his 2000 congressional campaign website read “resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Rippon’s not the only Olympian who’s criticized the decision to make Pence the country’s delegation leader. Openly gay skier Gus Kenworthy called the move “strange.”
“To have somebody leading the delegation that [has] directly attacked the LGBTQ community … just seems like a bad fit,” he recently explained to Ellen DeGeneres. “I feel like the Olympics is all about inclusion and people coming together, and it seems like it’s not really doing that.”
Rippon also challenged the vice president’s faith in his interview with USA Today, wondering how a “devout Christian” could possibly stand by President Trump:
“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 [Pence] should really go to church.”
Pence was so troubled by Rippon’s remarks, a new report in USA Today claims, that his staff reached out to the 28-year-old to meet in South Korea.
Rippon, however, didn’t bite. The figure skater turned down a meeting with the vice president.
Rippon had said previously he may be open to meeting with Pence after the competition overseas. But for now, Rippon has medals to focus on.
Much of the internet rejoiced in Rippon’s decision.
Some people chimed in that they were “so happy” Rippon decided to refuse a meeting.
“Can someone contact the International Olympic Committee?” another Twitter used wrote. “They need to give Adam Rippon the first medal of the 2018 Olympic Games.”
Can someone contact the International Olympic Committee? They need to give Adam Rippon the first medal of the 2018 Olympic Games for refusing to meet with Mike Pence. A full medal ceremony broadcast on television with the raising of the American flag is called for.
— Mikala Paula (@mikalapaula) February 7, 2018
While some agreed with Rippon on LGBTQ rights, they argued advocating for the queer community in front of Pence could be “a good thing.”
I 100% support Rippon’s decision. That said, meeting with Pence & advocating for the community might be a good thing. I would think he could still do this…He could say he had a change of heart & decided to REPRESENT the community and meet Pence, face to face. Just a thought.
— JCrockett (@JCrockett623) February 7, 2018
But plenty of others pointed out that Pence’s request could easily be a ploy at positive public relations.
“Our gay ferocious prince doesn’t owe that grinning goblin shit,” quipped Louis Virtel.
How Adam Rippon got where he is: hard work, self-possession, mad skill
How Mike Pence got where he is: pandering to bigots, homophobes, our megalomaniacal president
Our gay ferocious prince doesn’t owe that grinning goblin shit.
— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) February 7, 2018
Rippon is in South Korea to win medals for Team USA, after all — not carve out time for bigotry.
“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. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”